'No Easy Answers': Businesses Start To Reopen Along Colorado's 'Safer-At-Home' Timeline
Thousands of non-essential retail stores in Northern Colorado were given the green light to reopen for curbside pickup on Monday, marking the start of the state’s phased “safer-at-home” policy. Realtors were also able to start showing homes in-person again after being limited to virtual tours for more than a month.
After closing in late March and laying off all but one of his employees, Charley Dickey, owner of Rustic Mountain Charm in Estes Park, welcomed back two workers. They helped fill curbside orders and clean up the home decor shop in preparation for a grand reopening later this week.
“We’re excited about opening up,” Dickey said. “This has been a huge loss for the past 30 days and we’re hopeful we can start making money again.”
The first day back, Dickey said he filled a “very limited” number of orders over the phone and online. He was looking forward more to Friday, when retailers in Larimer County can officially start letting customers indoors.
“‘Curbside retail’ is kinda a contradiction of a term,” Dickey said. “People browse through our store and see what they wanna buy. We can’t come to the front of the store and say ‘What would you like to buy?’ Because they don’t know.”
The start of the state’s reopening came the same day as Colorado surpassed 700 recorded deaths from COVID-19. The state now also has nearly 14,000 confirmed positive cases of the disease. Polls show most Coloradans would prefer extending the statewide stay-at-home order vs. reopening the economy.
But in a press conference Monday, Gov. Jared Polis defended his decision to begin the reopening process.
“There’s no easy answers here,” Polis said. “I’ve consulted with medical professionals, workers, business leaders and I strongly believe this is the best path forward.”
In his remarks, Polis showed several graphs illustrating how Colorado’s infection and hospitalization rates have dropped significantly over the past few weeks, mostly thanks to residents’ social distancing efforts. He also said the state has been able to beef up its PPE supply, hospital capacity and testing abilities over the past month.
“We’re laser focused on providing a safer, sustainable environment where people can earn a living and be reasonably safe in the presence of a deadly virus,” Polis said.
In Greeley, a number of hair salons reopened under Weld County’s new “safer-at-work” guidance. The county last week urged small businesses to open at their own pace, defying the state’s stricter “safer-at-home” rules.
On Monday, customers filled every chair at The Bar. Ber. Shop, a barbershop in Greeley that also offers full bar service. Stylists trimmed shaggy-haired clients in chairs spaced at least six feet apart. Most wore masks.
Jose Oregel, the owner, said he made the decision to reopen earlier than the state allowed after getting the green light from Weld County. He said the conflicting messages from state and county governments have caused confusion among the business community.
“This is all a big ol’ headache,” Oregel said. “I’d like to know what this game is that they’re playing. Just tell me if I can or can’t open up and that’s it.”
Oregel said he plans to keep cutting hair this week unless the local health department asks him to close.
Under the state’s safer-at-home rules, barbershops and some tattoo parlors are allowed to reopen Friday with strict precautions. Next week, offices can begin letting up to 50% of workers return.
That’s if they operate in a community that hasn’t extended its local stay-at-home order.
Denver, Boulder, Jefferson, Adams and Arapahoe counties have extended their local stay-at-home orders until at least May 8. Larimer County said in a statement it would more or less allow business reopenings along the state's safer-at-home timeline.
Other safer-at-home rules
The patchwork of rules around the state means Colorado’s economic recovery will likely be uneven. Kat Rico, program director at the Loveland Small Business Development Center said the region’s event-based businesses, such as the performing arts, still likely won’t start bringing in revenue for months.
“It’s affecting every industry very differently,” Rico said. “Some businesses still can’t open up, so it’s really hard to do any kind of blanket statement.”
Other businesses that can start to reopen in the coming weeks include medical practices, such as dentists, that perform elective procedures.
Businesses with high densities of customers, including nightclubs, gyms and spas, will remain closed for the foreseeable future.