Local bar issued first written warning on Tuesday
By Mark Reaman
With what is expected to be a busy Fourth of July holiday weekend in the valley, there is concern that additional crowds on top of a perceived slowdown in following public health orders meant to stop the spread of COVID-19 could end up harming the population and taking the county into a higher risk level with more restrictions.
The perception, if not the reality, of crowds not adequately social distancing, especially in local drinking establishments, has some people voicing concern and placing metaphorical bets on when a new shutdown might be imposed in the county. Crested Butte mayor Jim Schmidt noted the gathering following the Chainless Race on June 26 looked like a scene out of Florida spring break. “If we assemble with no concern in large groups like the aftermath of the Chainless on Friday; if we don’t ask others to mask up; we will have to go back to a much more restrictive phase,” he wrote in a letter to the public.
North Valley Gunnison County commissioner Roland Mason expressed similar concerns in a letter to the public. “The alarming outbreaks in areas where many of our visitors live is a serious indicator that infected people will be traveling to Gunnison County this summer,” he wrote. “For our economy to continue to stay open and move forward, we need to renew our efforts to support the current health orders…”
Crested Butte planner Mel Yemma this week emailed local businesses that are utilizing public property to remind them that if things get out of hand, individual businesses could be cited and the county could be forced to clamp down on business activity with tighter restrictions.
Town staff has been doing “courtesy walks” to make sure businesses are adhering to the public health orders with the reconfigured Elk Avenue. “The courtesy walks culminated last Friday when town staff, the Town Marshal and the County Health Department walked the corridor together,” Yemma informed the businesses. “While there were minor tweaks to be made, the majority of the corridor is working well… The July Fourth weekend is upon us. We cannot let down our guard and risk another shutdown of our economy.”
While taking a positive approach to the reminder, Yemma also made it clear businesses are responsible for staying in compliance with public health orders.
Businesses that don’t comply will be first given a written warning. Crested Butte chief marshal Mike Reily said a written warning was provided to Kochevar’s on Tuesday, June 30. “Up to now, most everyone has been given some sort of ‘education’ as that has been our go-to activity,” said Reily.
“The second violation will result in the business losing the use of its public outdoor seating for the following weekend, while a third violation will cause the town to revoke the outdoor seating permit for the business with the removal of the barriers and tables for the summer,” explained Yemma. “Note that a violation of public health orders may also constitute a violation of a liquor license of the establishment for failure to comply with state, county and/or local conditions and requirements for serving alcohol. Such violations could trigger the liquor license revocation process.”
Yemma made it clear the town wants to help businesses succeed during a hard time, given the coronavirus crisis. “The town’s goal for the Elk Avenue one-way, and all of the outdoor expansion permits is to help everyone succeed in a time of social distancing and limited retail capacity for business, bars and restaurants,” Yemma concluded. “Businesses have largely done an outstanding job of decorating and utilizing these spaces and we hope it is helping your bottom line.”