Moffat County Board of Public Health, City Councilors meet with business owners to discuss slow reopening of economy

With the April 26 Stay at Home orders from Governor Jared Polis set to expire Sunday night, and the news of possible relaxed restrictions from the state level, Moffat County and the City of Craig’s elected officials are looking to get out in front of things and reopen the local economy, sending people back to work.

Borrowing from Eagle and Mesa County’s letter to the Governor asking for relaxed restrictions with the respective counties, the Moffat County Board of Public Health – made up of County Commissioners Ray Beck, Donald Broom and Don Cook, along with Craig City Councilor Tony Bohrer, Mayor Jarred Ogden, Councilwoman Andrea Camp, Councilman Chris Nichols, and Councilman Steve Mazzuca held a virtual meeting with local restaurant and business owners Thursday afternoon regarding the potential reopening of the local economy.

The biggest talking point among those in attendance was the soft reopening of restaurants to the public for in-dining eating. While Gov. Polis presented some plans earlier in the week to hold off on in-person dining at restaurants and bars until mid-May, local elected officials are drafting up a plan to send to the state level to ease restrictions here in Moffat County.

While elected officials had good intentions with proposing opening up restaurants at a 50 percent capacity while practicing safe social distancing, a handful of local bar and restaurant owners were against the idea, citing an all or nothing approach.

“We’re certainly not ready to reopen,” said Danny Griffiths, owner of JW Snacks. “We don’t think it’s a good idea on account you can’t eat with a mask on, and our servers can’t approach a table and practice safe social distancing. In our opinion, bars and restaurants should be the last ones to open. I don’t mean to step on anybody’s toes, but we just don’t think we’re ready to do this on a city-wide scale. Too many dang people are going to show up; you have to do it in an all or nothing manner. We just don’t think it’s a good idea and we just hope other people are on board.”

Locally, carry-out and delivery seems to be working well for restaurants. With that model seemingly working, some restaurant owners cited the potential change or going from closed to the public to opening up, forcing a change to current business, could hurt the business’s overhead.

Along with the overhead, one restaurant owner expressed concern with turning customers away due to the 50 percent guideline.

“What don’t want to have to turn away customers, so opening it up 50 percent could cause that,” said Bobby Howard, owner of the Rocky Mountain Chuck Wagon. “We’re still a new restaurant here in town, so we don’t want to turn people away and anger them, because that could really hurt our business.”

While a handful of businesses expressed concerns, other businesses said that they could open quickly and be able to follow the set guidelines.

“Our model of business, we operate a little bit differently,” said Erica Tieppo, owner of The Barrel Cathedral and Yampa Valley Brewing. “We would have a plan in place to be able to reopen, since we’re primarily a self-serve and counter service. Our plan would be to use disposable silverware and plate ware only; masks would have to be worn during ordering and transaction services; there would be outdoor seating and tables blocked off that could not be used.

“That would be our plan at a 50 percent capacity.”

As the discussion Thursday centered around restaurants and bars reopening under the Board of Public Health’s plans, the Phase 1 plan still includes the practice of social distancing while allowing local non-essential businesses to reopen at half staff.

According to the Board of Public Health’s proposed plan, “the purpose of this document is to develop a local plan for sustaining social distancing associated with COVID-19 in an incremental fashion that slowly lifts restrictions, prevents a resurgence of disease in the community, and allows our community to begin social and economic recovery. “

With the Phase 1 reopening plan currently in the works, elected officials have to wait for approval from the Governor’s office, much like Eagle and Mesa County must wait.

At this time Phase 1 is still in the works. Once the plan is completed and sent off to the state capitol for review, the Craig Press will provide a complete report of what Phase 1 would look like locally.

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