The Grand Valley’s surge in COVID-19 cases is once again straining local businesses.
Mesa County imposed further health restrictions this week that took effect Saturday. But, if the trend of positive cases continues, then a stay-at-home order similar to the one implemented at the start of the pandemic is still on the table. That has local business leaders and owners worried.
“I expect some businesses to die, unfortunately. And that makes me really frustrated. They’ve worked really hard to stay open,” said Diane Schwenke, president and CEO of the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. “They’re your friends and neighbors. They need you to wear your damn mask and do the right thing. They could lose their business.”
Under the new level, all indoor capacity for businesses is capped at 25%. Any businesses that have received a five star rating from the Variance Protection Program, a collaboration between the chamber and Mesa County Public Health, can opt to have capacity set to 50%. Those businesses will also be checked on more frequently to ensure they’re following protocols, Schwenke said. If the state moves into a stay-at-home order, Schwenke said, it is possible that five-star businesses receive exemption from that order and the chamber is hopeful that’s the case.
Schwenke anticipates that the businesses that will be hurt most by the new restrictions are retailers, event planners, venues, and any business that relies on foot traffic.
Some of those businesses will be spared certain restrictions, though.
Shane Allerheiligen, owner of A Robin’s Nest of Antiques & Treasures, 602 Main St., isn’t worried about how the new restrictions will impact his business.
The store is about 21,000 square feet, he said, which makes social distancing easier. Robin’s Nest also utilizes an air sanitation system from ActivePure technology, which claims its system can kill most, if not all, traces of COVID-19 on a surface in seven hours.
And if the state moves to a stay-at-home order, Robin’s Nest would be unaffected, Allerheiligen said.
“We have a federal firearms license, so we’re considered an essential business,” he said. “Thank God for the Second Amendment.”
Other businesses, namely restaurants, won’t be as lucky.
The past two weeks have been devastating for MX Tapas Bar Restaurante, 546 Main St.
Manager Shayna Livingston said that business in that time frame has dropped between 50-75%. Since MX doesn’t have a patio, the 25% capacity could further stifle income.
“Everything has dropped. Tips, sales, and I don’t see a lot of our regulars anymore. We do online ordering but that doesn’t cover it at all,” Livingston said. “It’s frustrating. I understand people are nervous but all of this comes back on us, the restaurants. Please wear your mask to keep numbers down and please shop locally.”
To help businesses such as MX, the chamber is working with the Business Incubator Center to increase funding for assistance grants.
On Wednesday, Grand Junction City Council authorized the Incubator to distribute up to $300,000 of grant funding, according to a Friday Chamber news release. This is similar to the Incubator’s last round of grant funding that expired on Oct. 30.
Businesses that received that funding are eligible to apply for this round, too. The max award is $7,500.
Initiatives such as this funding can help businesses stay afloat, but Schwenke said it is imperative the community does its part, too. “At this point, we’re in community spread,” she said. “By not wearing your mask, you’re putting businesses and their employees at risk.”