Glenwood Springs council sets criteria for ‘red level relief’ restaurant grants
Councilors Davis, Willman appointed to determine recipients
Locally owned restaurants hardest hit by the latest coronavirus restrictions shutting down indoor dining will be given priority for $165,000 worth of city of Glenwood Springs year-end relief grants.
Those choosing to follow Garfield County’s more lax restrictions, as well as national chains, fast-food restaurants and places like coffee shops that don’t rely heavily on the sit-down dining experience, need not apply — for now.
Those were the criteria established by City Council in a 6-0 vote Monday during a special meeting called to discuss rules for “red level relief grants.”
Contained in that is $115,000 in remaining federal CARES Act dollars that must be spent by Wednesday, and another $50,000 in Downtown Development Authority funds that must be spent within the DDA boundaries, City Manager Debra Figueroa said.
On Tuesday morning, an email went out to 36 qualifying restaurants, a representative of which can claim a check of up to $4,600 (assuming all accept) at the downtown Glenwood Springs Visitor’s Center Wednesday or Thursday, if they agree to follow the current state restrictions.
Local, Daily Bread, Rocky Mountain Pizza Co., Doc Hollidays Tavern, Glenwood Canyon Brewpub, Glenwood Vaudeville Revue, Russo’s Pizza, Grind, Italian Underground, Las Margaritas, Las Palmas, Little Bavarian, Masala & Curry, Pullman, Riviera Supper Club, Sal Mex, Slope & Hatch, Springs Bar & Grill, Zheng Asian Bistro, Hugo’s, El Sarape, Kedai, Rivers, Taqueria El Nopal, Frida, Jilbertitos, May Palace, Trattoria Brava, Za Pizza, China Town, Fiesta Guadalajara, Kanpai Sushi, Ming’s Cafe, Tequila’s, KC’s Wing House, Native Son
Councilor Steve Davis proposed the criteria for grants that were made available through the Glenwood Chamber Foundation and the DDA.
“I believe it’s the desire of this council to … award grants to restaurants that have been most adversely affected by the state of Colorado’s dine-in restrictions, by moving from orange to level red (on the state’s COVID-19 dial),” Davis said.
“These grants would go to locally owned restaurants who historically have relied very little on carry-out business … and have had little or no way to adapt for their survival and well-being,” Davis said.
In that context, he said grants should not be considered for national chains, including local fast-food franchises, because the impact to them has not been as great.
Council did agree, however, that other types of eating and drinking establishments could be considered for a follow-up round of COVID-relief grants after the first of the year.
Grants should also not be awarded to restaurants that previously received one of the city’s $6,000 “warming grants” to provide heated outdoor dining spaces during the cold-weather months, Davis said.
“I’d rather not have them double-dip into our grants programs,” he said.
19th Street Diner, Smoke, CO Ranch House, Juicy Lucy’s, Sweet Coloradough, Charcoalburger
Recipients also must sign an acknowledgment that they are following the state of Colorado’s public health orders, now and in the future, in order to receive a grant, he proposed.
Council agreed unanimously to the criteria outlined by Davis, though Councilor Tony Hershey was absent from the special session.
Concerns were expressed about leaving it up to staff to make the call as to which restaurants are awarded grants, and which ones aren’t.
To alleviate that worry, council appointed Davis and Councilor Charlie Willman to review grant requests and make the final determinations.
City Attorney Karl Hanlon advised that it would be awkward for staff to make those determinations.
“One of my concerns was putting it on staff to call out winners and losers on this,” he said. “The best thing to do is to make this your decision, not staff’s decision.”
Mayor Jonathan Godes agreed with that approach.
“It is a sticky question,” he said. “Either we pass it off to staff, or we take it, and it’s not staff’s job to make the hard (political) decisions.
“‘Heavy is the head that wears the crown,’ and we wear the crown,” Godes said.
The issue became even more politically charged when the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Dec. 10 moved Garfield County to level red on the dial, based on an increasing number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19, but Garfield County commissioners decided to issue separate guidance.
While level red shuts down restaurants for indoor dining, limiting them to takeout, delivery or open-air dining spaces, county commissioners adopted a resolution on Dec. 16 that allows restaurants to remain open at half their normal indoor dining capacity. With that, though, the commissioners advised that the state could still take enforcement action by suspending restaurant and liquor licenses. No such actions have been taken to date.
For its part, the Glenwood council reiterated that it wants restaurants to follow the state’s restrictions, and are required to do so if they expect to receive a city relief grant.
And, “Any restaurant where the primary business is dine-in service should be the ones receiving priority for these funds,” Willman added. “That’s my goal in this.”
Willman has also been working with chamber representatives and restaurant owners to be ready for Glenwood Springs to qualify for the state’s recently unveiled “5-Star” program. It would allow restaurants and other businesses to operate a level up from wherever a county or municipality is on the state dial, if they can show they meet a certain higher public health standard to help prevent disease spread.
For the city or Garfield County to qualify, though, there would need to be a two-week downward trend in the local COVID-19 statistics based on case number, incidence rate, test positivity rate and hospitalizations.
So far, so good. As of Tuesday, Garfield County had shown progress in reversing the trend on most of those metrics since Dec. 10.
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The Pitkin County Restaurant Alliance got an order it didn’t want Friday — a judge’s denial of its motion for a temporary restraining order that would have halted the county’s Red phase that takes effect Sunday.