Local businesses mostly hopeful about potentially moving into level green this week
Though reactions are mixed, most are looking forward to looser restrictions
Things could be looking up for Summit County as the prospect of moving into level green restrictions grows stronger by the day.
The county’s incidence rate fell into level green metrics on Tuesday, April 27, meaning it could officially enter level green this coming Wednesday, May 5. To reach level green, the county needs its incidence rate to be below 100 cases per 100,000 residents for seven days straight or get 70% of its population vaccinated.
The good news keeps coming: The county’s incidence rate continues to plummet. As of Saturday, May 1, the county’s incidence rate was at 74.3.
These metrics have been well received by many local businesses, especially for bars like Saved by the Wine in Dillon.
“First of all, (we’re absolutely ecstatic),” said owner Erin O’Brien. “As a bar more than a restaurant, we really need to have more space. … We’ve been waiting for a long time. We definitely didn’t see ourselves here over a year ago. We kept saying summer 2021 will be our summer, and it looks like it might be true.”
Other establishments, like Murphy’s Food & Spirits, are also hopeful about the future, but can’t help but feel some semblance of hesitation.
“We’re excited, we’re hoping that we can move in that direction,” said manager Josh Brunsink.
In the past, business owners have struggled to keep up with bouncing back and forth between levels. It’s one reason Brunsink said he felt slightly skeptical about this potential move.
“I think it sometimes seems like a red flag or false hope,” he said. “One day it’s one thing, the next day it’s taken back. It’s kind of hard to manage all the time, especially with staffing and different capacities. Do we need five people or do we need two for the upcoming week? Ultimately we want to proceed with the business as normal.”
O’Brien also wants to continue operations as normal. When Saved by the Wine first opened in August, the team had to change course and operate the business according to current restrictions, which didn’t always align with their business plan or what they had envisioned for their company.
“You’re in too deep,” she said. “You sign a lease and put tons of effort into huge business plans and lots of different things way before a virus ever hit China and then you just have to start paying bills. …
“And then we had to transform into a liquor store/coffee shop for the actual indoor-seating shutdown. We’ve just been like a chameleon. … We’re pretty fortunate being so small that we’ve been able to do such adjustments … but we’re extremely thankful that coming up here pretty soon we’re going to be what we worked so hard to prepare for.”
When Saved by the Wine first opened, O’Brien said the intention was to launch a pre- and post-dinner stop that was an alternative to a dive bar or brewery. She envisioned an establishment with beautiful views, cocktails, appetizers and desserts, live music, games and possibly dancing.
Since opening, the wine bar and bakery had to transform into more of a sit-down restaurant, which O’Brien said doesn’t exactly fit their physical space. O’Brien said she’s looking forward to putting the space to good use for what she originally intended.
“I’d like to think that we’re totally ready for it because we’ve been waiting for a long time, but it would definitely be a pretty big transition,” she said. “I do think that there’s going to be enough regulations still that it won’t be a massive influx of people, especially because it’s mud season. But we’re really thankful for our staff, who is on call. They’ve been really flexible through COVID and they’re all ready to make some money so they’ll be easy to call in.”
In addition to the two owners, Saved by the Wine employs four more people, which O’Brien says is a full staff. For some businesses like Murphy’s, finding a full staff hasn’t been so easy.
“I feel that we’re having a hard time finding kitchen help sometimes,” Brunsink said. “A lot of people left when this all happened. Unemployment, all the money that people are getting from that doesn’t help.”
Jan Shackelford, owner of The Juniper Tree in Frisco, has a different concern. She said she’s worried about tourists visiting the county and wants to see measures like masking and the 6-foot physical distancing remain in place.
“Taking our massive tourism that will start coming next month, I still like the fact of wearing masks and 6-foot distancing,” she said. “I’d be very happy for the restaurants, but the crowds that come up here sometimes aren’t very well educated on just common sense. If everybody were vaccinated, it would be a different story.”
Shackelford said if the county moved into level green and restrictions are loosed, she’ll implement her own measures.
“If there’s no (6-foot) distancing, I’d limit people at the door,” she said. “We have masks, we have gloves, we have cleaning solutions. I just can’t have my store so crowded with people and wandering aimlessly and kids. A whole pack of people coming in to kill time is a bit dangerous, so I would probably still limit who gets to crowd into the store.”
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