May 7, 2020

Vail seeking certainty in reopening businesses


As local governments and businesses start planning to reopen for business, there’s something missing: certainty. Vail wants some certainty.

The Vail Economic Recovery Team, a sub-group of the Vail Economic Advisory Council, is meeting weekly, and looking for ways to open the town for guests in advance of current projections.

Those projections, part of the state’s reopening plan, could put reopening four months or more into the future.

During a Tuesday presentation to the Vail Town Council, town economic development director Mia Vlaar told councilmembers that it was a bit surprising to learn about the “strength and urgency” of the desire to reopen.

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Those comments came from a Monday meeting of the recovery team.

Vlaar told councilmembers that the lack of specifics regarding reopening is affecting businesses’ “ability to be viable into the future.”

That’s why businesses are asking the town to go to Eagle County officials for a firm, accelerated timeline.

June or winter?

Councilmember Jenn Bruno is a member of the recovery committee. Bruno said there’s a strong feeling of time sensitivity for the summer season.

“If hotels and restaurants don’t reopen by mid-June, most won’t reopen, and will wait until mid-November,” Bruno said.

Councilmember Brian Stockmar said he hopes any reopening plan is done “in a way to emphasize safety.” That’s “going to require cooperation from a lot of people,” including guests, residents, employees and the town government.

Mayor Dave Chapin said any reopening strategy will rely on personal responsibility from all involved.

“There’s no reason to let our guard down,” Chapin said. Noting that Eagle County was granted early release from the state’s most stringent shutdown decrees, Chapin said any reopening will require still following the protocols and tactics that led to a reduction in new COVID-19 cases.

Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry said she and her fellow commissioners have been hearing from many people and groups about creating a date certain for reopening.

That’s going to be tricky, Chandler-Henry said, since reopening will depend in large part on the local progression of the COVID-19 virus.

“Public health feels like we’ll know a lot more in a week,” Chandler-Henry said.

Any reopening plan will require ways to maintain social distancing, Chandler-Henry said. And, she added, no one wants to reopen only to see a new outbreak of the virus.

Looking forward to a date

Cameron Douglas is the co-owner of the El Segundo and Montauk restaurants in Vail. Douglas said El Segundo is expected to reopen for take-out meals on Friday, with Montauk following on May 14.

“We’re all looking forward to a date certain from Vail Resorts and the town,” Douglas said.

Douglas said it’s taken about a week to get El Segundo ready to reopen. A date certainly can help with planning.

Chapin echoed that feeling.

“We can’t get the word on a Thursday we can reopen on Friday,” Chapin said.

Town officials are also looking at modifying some town codes to allow restaurants and shops to do business on the streets in front of their businesses.

While there’s a strong sentiment from many businesses to reopen sooner than later, Vail Town Manager Scott Robson said any plan will have to be well thought-out and designed.

“Even if we feel we’re in a position to move a little more quickly … this would not be the town of Vail going rogue,” Robson said. “We want to move the ball forward quickly (but safely).”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com.





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