Glenwood 7th Street businesses are ready to see promised ‘festival street,’ after years of painstaking construction
No strangers to construction, businesses along Glenwood Springs’ Seventh Street say they cannot wait for the construction work to end.
Meanwhile, City Council hopes that the anticipated “festival street,” upon completion, will lead to some festive economics for businesses that have endured the long, painstaking process known as the Seventh Street Beautification Project.
That, on the heels of the two-year-long Grand Avenue Bridge replacement that concluded in mid-2018, and which saw Seventh Street closed to vehicle traffic for months on end to serve as a construction staging area.
“We’ve seen the latest sales tax report, and if you use that for a barometer you would say that there’s been a fairly good increase downtown,” Councilman Rick Voorhees said.
“I wonder if that increase is a natural line and whether, after August, when all of this work is promised to be done, whether that trajectory will continue upward.”
According to the most recent city sales tax numbers, in January, the city’s eating and drinking places category generated $188,752 worth of sales tax dollars — an 8.3 percent increase compared to its January 2018 performance.
Eating and drinking establishments also brought in 9.5 percent more sales taxes in all of 2018 compared to 2017.
Rick Duffon, general manager at The Pullman restaurant, who has worked at the eatery at Seventh and Cooper for eight years, said that despite the upward trending sales tax numbers, he’s troubled by the ongoing construction’s effect on the eatery’s local clientele.
“We always hear, ‘Oh, well sales tax [collection] is up.’ …What they’re not paying attention to is, while our sales are up, that is because we have had to raise prices because of minimum wage going up. Our butts in seats are down,” Duffon said.
Colorado’s minimum wage increased on Jan. 1 from $10.20 to $11.10 an hour. For tipped employees, the minimum wage went from $7.18 to $8.08 an hour.
“What we heard from most of the businesses that showed up to speak to us at council and speak to us at the open house that was held shortly before the project, was that they wanted to see it move forward and get it done,” Councilwoman Shelley Kaup said. “They were willing to take the pain, so to speak, this year again to get the project done with.”
Riviera Supper Club & Piano Bar Owner Jonathan Gorst, whose business also resides along Seventh Street near the under bridge plaza area, agreed with Kaup that businesses wanted the work done.
But he was also concerned about Seventh Street’s lengthy closure, and recent business closures, too.
“The other part of it is, are we doing the right thing for businesses with this much construction going on? I really don’t know the answer,” Gorst said.
“I do see businesses closing. I see that we’ve lost some businesses. I see that we have trouble with other businesses opening, and I think that may be an indicator that we’ve had a lot of delays,” Gorst said of Seventh Street’s on and off again construction over the years.
Gorst said he did not want to jump to too many conclusions on why businesses had closed in the immediate area, but looked forward to the project’s completion.
The Lost Cajun’s Glenwood Springs location closed for good in March. And, the Book Train announced Wednesday that, after 40 years of serving the Glenwood Springs community, it too would shut down on April 26.
The book store closure is due to the businesses’ lease not being renewed, according to a press release.
Councilman Steve Davis, who also co-owns Hookers fly shop in downtown Glenwood Springs with his family, explained that visions for Seventh Street had been in the works for seven years.
As a business owner himself, Davis was sympathetic toward his fellow business owners’ concerns, but said when the vision was completed, the vitality that it would create in downtown would make it all worth it.
Davis compared Glenwood’s future festival street to that of San Antonio’s River Walk, and said that its potential, upon completion, was endless.
“I’m trying to just go with it, and hope it gets done,” added Cece Zumwinkle, owner of another Seventh Street eatery, Juicy Lucy’s Steakhouse.
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