New businesses are especially hard hit by the shutdown, having not yet recouped their initial investments
Editor’s note: In a Facebook post linked from this story, Mtn Axe owner John Cronin said his landlord was about to evict him. He later learned that a notice posted on the door of the business was a demand for compliance notice, not an eviction notice.
DILLON — The COVID-19 shutdown has negatively impacted nearly every business in Summit County, leaving some owners to wonder whether they will be able to reopen their doors. However, the financial impact is especially acute for new businesses that had just begun to operate.
John Cronin, owner of Mtn Axe in Breckenridge, said that in the 77 days the recreation business was open, the brand was growing in success. He said things were looking great from a business perspective at the beginning of March.
“We were doing really well in March, and then the shutdown happened,” Cronin said. “What really hurt a business like ours is a significant percentage of our business is prebooked with businesses or group parties, things like that. We ended up having to refund a lot of money.”
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Cronin said he and his partners invested about $275,000 in the business between Oct. 1 and the beginning of January.
On Friday, Cronin posted a GoFundMe link to Facebook asking for help with the rent.
The Breckenridge Small Business Relief Program is meant to provide rent assistance to business owners by directly paying landlords. However, one criteria is that the tenant must demonstrate by a letter from the landlord that there will be a rent reduction, deferment or combination of the two for at least one month. The landlord also must agree not to evict the tenant for failure to pay rent for at least 60 days after receiving the rent grant from the town.
Cronin said it took several weeks to reach these agreements with his landlord, including an agreement not to evict the business, which made Mtn Axe eligible for the grant.
Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula said he is personally trying to facilitate communication between landlords and tenants, including Cronin and his landlord. He said he can only encourage the parties to get on the phone with each other and try to work things out in the midst of this crisis.
“Let’s work on this as a community,” Mamula said. “Let’s resolve our differences and just get to a better place. All I’m asking from any landlord right now is to at least have the conversation.”
Cronin said that at the beginning of April he was not sure whether Mtn Axe would make it through the shutdown, but now he’s more hopeful after finding some new sources of funding, applying for government grants and loans, and after talking with his landlord about some rent deferments.
“I’m just hoping we get to the point where we open up, and hopefully we can make this work,” Cronin said.
Elevation Bowl, the new bowling alley in Dillon, was poised to open the weekend before the shutdown, according to general manager Jeff Crandall.
Trailmark Capital, which owns the building and hired Crandall to manage the bowling alley space, had spent a significant amount of money remodeling the interior. The owners decided not to open because they didn’t want to risk people getting sick.
It’s the latest hurdle for a bowling alley that has had a rough history, with multiple owners, closures and remodels over the past 20 years. The previous owners filed for bankruptcy in September 2018 before the new owners purchased the space.
Crandall said the business is essentially on pause at the moment since it never opened. He said the shutdown is giving him the chance to do more work on the space, such as cleaning out old fixtures and putting in new lighting.
“I’m trying to get back in touch with prospective employees,” Crandall said. “I’m pretty sure everyone’s looking for a chance to get back to work or get a job, so hopefully there will still be people around. It will be interesting to see.”
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