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Summit County business owners react to level orange restrictions

Angry James Brewery is pictured on Saturday, Nov. 7, in Silverthorne. Owner AJ Brinckerhoff said he expects new restrictions from the state to be a hit to his business.
Photo by Libby Stanford / estanford@summitdaily.com

FRISCO — Summit County’s move into the safer-at-home level orange stage of response to the novel coronavirus means more local businesses are being asked, once again, to be flexible. 

Summit County officially moved into level orange on Friday, Nov. 6. The move means all noncritical businesses must operate at 25% capacity, or as many as 50 people indoors, whichever is fewer.

The county also chose to include a rule prohibiting gatherings from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. in its amended public health order. With that, restaurants must close at 9:30 p.m. to allow for employees to get home before 10. 

The restrictions are in addition to already established virus mitigation measures at the county level. On Oct. 24, the county amended its order to limit personal gatherings to six people indoors and 10 people outdoors within no more than two household groups. The Oct. 24 order also prohibited short-term lodging businesses from having more than 10 people within two household groups on one booking. 

Restaurants are also limited to six-person parties within no more than two households. 

All of the restrictions are in response to rising case numbers in the county. As of Saturday, Nov. 7, the state was reporting 861.8 new cases of the virus per 100,000 people and a positivity rate, which is the percentage of positive tests results out of all tests, of 15.2%. Both of those data points fall within Level Red, which is the stay-at-home phase. 

If the county were to officially move to that phase, it would be in a shutdown similar to that of March. 

All of the changes mean owners of local businesses have had to be flexible and adapt or risk closing their business. 

A.J. Brinckerhoff, owner of Angry James Brewing Co. in Silverthorne, said he expects the changes to have a big impact on his sales, but he understands the reasoning behind them. 

“At 25% capacity, it’s a huge hit to the business because that means that inside our building, we’re basically capturing 25% of what we would see as available revenue,” Brinckerhoff said. 

Diners sit on the patio of Angry James Brewery on Saturday, Nov. 7, in Silverthorne. Restaurant owner AJ Brinckerhoff said adapting to winter weather will be a challenge amid added pandemic restrictions.
Photo by Libby Stanford / estanford@summitdaily.com

Brinckerhoff said the brewery will be adjusting to the changes by optimizing outdoor space, which isn’t restricted, and emphasizing to-go orders. 

“We’re doing what a lot of retail businesses are doing,” he said. “We’re taking the instructions from our local health department and we’re implementing them based on our capacity and our space. (We’re) doing everything by the book to make sure that our employees and our customers not only feel safe but are safe as well.”

Brinckerhoff said he believes the restrictions make sense based on the rising case numbers in the county. 

“They’re just the result of what’s going on in Colorado and around the county,” he said. “We’re just in a situation where our local government, from my point of view, is taking the steps to try to keep everybody as safe as possible.”

Not every business owner in the county believes health risk outweighs the economic risk presented by the new restrictions, however. 

“At this point, how much economic harm do we want to do to slow the spread of this thing that’s already here?” said Brian Jones, one of the owners of Northside Pizza in Breckenridge. 

Jones said Northside Pizza itself won’t be greatly impacted by the restrictions because of its delivery system. 

“Our capacity is already pretty low, so fortunately it’s not going to affect us too much,” he said. “Our plan is just to focus more on delivery, and that’s something we already have the infrastructure for.”

Much like Northside Pizza, Diane Burris, the owner of Cool River Coffee House and Cafe in Breckenridge, said the restrictions aren’t likely to affect her sales that much.

“I have been really lucky since this whole thing started,” Burris said. “I do a lot of carryout. I have some heaters I put outside and I put some table space outside. So I’m kind of lucky with my setup. I don’t have any indoor seating anyway.”

Burris said she’s in support of the steps being taken to help prevent further spread of the virus.

“It’s hard,” she said. “Everyone’s getting tired of it and everyone wants to socialize and do things. I feel like the government is doing as good a job as they could be doing.”

Brinckerhoff said he would appreciate financial assistance from the government to help adjust to the restrictions and the changes. He plans to put heaters outside for more outside dining, an endeavor that’s going to cost a lot.

“For most businesses like myself, we’re making it through but we’re having to spend more to make less,” he said.

Jones said his concern is for the other restaurants and businesses in Breckenridge that rely on dine-in customers for their revenue. 

“If we don’t have a ski season and we go back to completely closing restaurants, I don’t think this town will recover for another 10 years,” he said.


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