Summer season has potential for the valley
By Mark Reaman
The beginning pieces of a timeline to reopen Gunnison County to business is starting to take shape for the next four to six weeks. Local “industry subgroups” have made their suggestions and county Public Health director Joni Reynolds is using those suggestions to lay out a potential opening for late May and early June.
Reynolds has announced target dates for when various businesses can start to open their doors. Most can begin on a limited basis starting in this month. She emphasized that state restrictions trump Gunnison County mandates, so some reopening depends on what Colorado as a whole does.
Reynolds also emphasized that an increase in COVID-19 cases could result in a return to tighter restrictions. In fact the county public infomation office said Wednesday that since public health orders were loosened there has been a slight uptick in coronavirus cases reported in the county. Officials are keeping a close eye on numbers to make sure more openings don’t result in more illness and the potential for a return to the stay-at-home orders.
The most critical is probably for lodging properties that will host tourists, a lifeblood of the community’s economy. Her target date for when hotels and other rentals can begin hosting out-of-state visitors is Wednesday, May 27, at 50 percent capacity. With a gradual increase in capacity, Reynolds hopes to allow rentals to be able to rent all of their rooms starting Wednesday, June 24. The industry subgroup had asked Reynolds to start allowing full occupancy beginning June 1.
The restaurant and bar industry is another important business sector in a town that depends on tourism. While Reynolds has not yet set target dates on how restaurants and bars can reopen safely, she is expected to do so this week. The restaurant industry group laid out distancing protocol suggestions for Reynolds that they would enforce and are asking that they be allowed to have a limited number of staff in the restaurants for training, preparation and general operations early this month.
Overall, they want Reynolds to let restaurants reopen on Wednesday, May 20, “with no more than four customers in a booth and six at a table; tables would be spaced with six feet between any chair backs and booths; every other booth will be closed.”
At that time, outdoor seating should be allowed for 50 percent capacity. And then on Monday, June 15, restaurants hope to have 100 percent capacity for outdoor seating, with social distancing measures in place.
Outfitter and guide services can begin to ramp up in May under Reynolds’ target dates. “Starting May 15, Guide Services can operate with an exemption for all residents, non-resident homeowners and essential workers who are in the County. A target date of May 27 is appropriate for opening for all visitors, tourists, residents and essential workers unless there is a change in the State Directive restricting in-state travel,” Reynolds wrote.
Gyms, fitness centers and group training will continue to be prohibited through May 26, with a target date of May 27 to open, unless there is a change in the State Directive restricting these businesses. If there is a change in the State Directive restricting these businesses, Reynolds said she would reconsider this restriction. She outlined a target date of May 8 as being appropriate for personal wellness training for individual or household groups by exemption.
Non-contact outdoor sport activities like organized ultimate Frisbee, soccer or softball may apply for an exemption with specific plans for consideration for June 1. Summer camps for youths may apply for an exemption. Additional details and specific camp plans are necessary to consider them for June 1.
While professional beauty services were permitted to open under the Eighth Amended Public Health Order on May 1, Reynolds said a target date of May 8 is appropriate for massage therapists, non-healthcare settings and tattoo studios/body art professionals to open for individuals in Gunnison County (e.g., residents and essential workers) with an exemption. A target date of May 27 is appropriate to begin services for all including visitors unless there is a change in the State Directive restricting these businesses and/or travel. All public health measures must continue to be followed.
Reynolds is strongly recommending that for real estate showings, agents restrict property showings to vacant properties or schedule showings when no one is present at the property (i.e., tenants/homeowners). She asked that agents limit contact on surfaces to a minimum as possible while showing properties.
After literally weeks of meetings, Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce executive director Ashley UpChurch submitted the proposed plans to Reynolds last week. The business subgroups have been meeting regularly on Mondays and Tuesdays for weeks and UpChurch said she would guess that most businesses in the valley have participated in at least one subgroup meeting. Generally, each of the plans given to Reynolds provided detailed safety measures that would be implemented within any industry once reopening begins.
In the cover letters to Reynolds the industry representatives state the importance of keeping the community safe along with the importance of getting business open again to provide an economy for the community. The ending message from each group generally states something to the effect of “We understand case numbers need to remain stable and manageable as we move forward. If required by an amended public health order, the industry supports the reinstatement of stay-at-home measures and will comply with any service restrictions necessary.”
“The Chamber ultimately supports Joni’s decisions and appreciates this opportunity for the business community,” the industry letter concluded.