Nearly $1 Million Given to Businesses
Aspen City Hall has made grants totaling over $886,000 to help 108 local businesses affected by COVID-19 pay the rent, the Aspen Daily News reported. The awards, for up to $14,000 per business, are intended to pay up to a third of a business’ rent over three months. For a business to qualify, among other criteria its landlord must agree to take a one-third reduction in the rent due for the three-month duration of the program. Twenty-nine businesses were denied their application due to a variety of reasons cited by an oversight committee.
Traffic Counts, Unsurprisingly, Were Down in April
Average daily traffic at the entrance to Aspen declined 36% for the months of March through April compared to the same time last year, according to numbers kept by the city of Aspen reported by the Aspen Daily News. Car counts are beginning to return to levels approaching normal. The sharpest declines came in late March through mid-April compared to 2019, following the imposition of stay-at-home orders. Average daily car trips in and out of Aspen for March, April and through the end of May are at 12,361 for 2020, which is down 36 percent from 2019’s 19,342.
Fireworks, Parade Cancelled for July 4
The city has canceled the annual parade and fireworks in an effort to limit public gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Aspen Daily News reported. One of Aspen’s busiest holidays of the year, the Fourth of July at its peak can see up to 35,000 visitors in town. The city also canceled its subordinate Fourth events, which typically take place at Wagner Park and in recent years have included a bonfire and a DJ. Aspen Chamber Resort Association is working closely with the city to program alternative activities for this year’s celebration.
Paradise Bakery Staying Put
After months of searching for a new home and exchanges with its landlords, the beloved Paradise Bakery intends to remain in its iconic corner spot, the Aspen Daily News reported.
The opportunity for Paradise to re-sign its lease arose after its next-door neighbor, high-end Italian retailer Loro Piana, called off plans to expand into the bakery’s current space. Paradise was set to lose its lease in October 2021 and the community reacted negatively immediately upon the announcement. Loro Piano’s CEO quickly realized it would be in the community’s best effort not to expand and allow Paradise to remain in its place, where it’s been for 40 years.
Retail Sales Sharply Decline
Taxable retail sales in the city of Aspen declined 43.6% in March compared to the same month last year, the Aspen Daily News reported. While that is dismal in terms of the city’s overall revenue picture and reflective of the economic impact of stay-at-home orders that were implemented by officials on March 23, city officials initially projected as much as a 65% loss for the month.
March accounts for roughly 12.1% of the year’s total sales tax collections. Industries posting the largest monthly gains were utilities and automobiles, with 8.4% and 5.5% increases, respectively. The industries posting the largest monthly declines were clothing, restaurants and bars, and sports equipment and clothing with 60.2%, 59.6%, and 59.2% decreases, respectively. Restaurants and bars were required to cease in-house service in mid-March.
Bidwell Building Up First for Mark Hunt Construction Projects
Developer Mark Hunt’s has started the redevelopment of multiple buildings on the Cooper Avenue mall, the Aspen Daily News reported. The project begins at the corner of Cooper Avenue and Galena Street, where the Bidwell building will be torn down, and includes the Red Onion annex, also set for demolition, as well as renovations of the second-floor spaces above the historic restaurant and building to the west. The corner building will house new retail units, while the second floor space above the Red Onion is slated to become a performance venue and educational space run by Jazz Aspen Snowmass. Next on Hunt’s list is the demolition of the Buckhorn Arms building at 730 E. Cooper Ave. across the street from City Market, which is to become a new hotel.
Events Canceled or Readjusting in Snowmass
Snowmass officials announced several cancellations due to Covid-19, the Aspen Daily News reported. These include the Snowmass Rodeo and the Thursday concert series on Fanny Hill. Other events like the Ragnar Trail race, the Yoga on the Mountain festival and the circus also are canceled. Jazz Aspen Snowmass also called off its highly anticipated Labor Day Experience.
Sales Tax Decreases, but Not as Badly as Forecasted
Although the town of Snowmass Village’s sales tax revenues took a significant hit in March due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, it was a little less severe than staff anticipated, the Aspen Times reported. According to the town’s monthly taxes revenue report, the March sales tax revenues allocated for the general fund and the marketing fund dropped by 51.18% each compared with March 2019. Lodging tax revenue dropped 58.91% and real estate transfer tax revenue dropped 17.82%, according to town documents. However, while these numbers are dismal, town staff originally projected a 60% decrease in sales tax revenues over March.
New Seafood Restaurant Opens in Willits
An experienced hand at valley restaurants, Mario Hernandez, his wife Vanessa and brother Roberto Hernandez launched a Mediterranean seafood restaurant in the Willits Town Center in early June, the Aspen Daily News reported. It’s in the space formerly occupied by Smoke Modern BBQ.
The Basalt Town Council unanimously approved a liquor license for Ocean Seafood & Raw Bar recently following a review and public hearing by the local licensing authority. Hernandez, who lives with his family in Glenwood Springs, described the new venture as “a family restaurant for everybody.” He has worked for 15 years at restaurants up and down the valley and was associated with Jimmy’s in Aspen for the last six years.
City Market to Feature Mount Sopris Mural
The entryway to Carbondale’s new City Market promises to be as aesthetically pleasing as it is serviceable, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent reported. When the store opens this fall patrons will be greeted by a 16×5 foot mural, created by local artists, that will include the Crystal River Valley’s most iconic symbol — Mount Sopris. The mural’s creators — artists Reina Katzenberger and Andrew Roberts Gray — had their entry chosen in April from among 15 entries after a call for submissions by Carbondale Arts and The Kroger Co.
Limited Hiking Available at Hanging Lake Trail
The Hanging Lake hiking trail in Glenwood Canyon is open to visitors amid guidelines that will include a temporary reduction in hiker capacity as well as a social distancing plan, the Aspen Daily News reported. Access to the attraction has changed again because of the COVID-19 situation. The shuttle-service system that was implemented in early 2019 to take people from Glenwood Springs to the trailhead will not be operating, at least not initially. Permits are still required, however, and users can once again drive to the Hanging Lake Rest Area and park. Or, visitors may bike or hike along the Glenwood Canyon Recreational Path to reach the trailhead. Permits can be purchased online at visitglenwood.com/HangingLake for $12 per person.
SkiCo Opening for Summer with Restrictions
Aspen Skiing Co. will soon open lifts and facilities for summer operations obeying social distancing guidelines, beginning with Aspen Mountain on June 12 and Snowmass on June 21, the Aspen Daily News reported. On Aspen, the Silver Queen Gondola will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for sightseeing, disc golf, hiking, nature programs with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and a children’s play area. Daily operations on Aspen Mountain will run until Sept. 7 with operations continuing on weekends, Friday through Sunday, through Oct. 4.
Snowmass opens for the summer June 21 with both the Elk Camp Gondola and Elk Camp Chairlift in operation, as well as most adventures in the Lost Forest including the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, Treeline Trial Challenge Course and Rugged Ascent Climbing Wall. Trails in the Snowmass Bike Park will open as conditions permit. Hiking trails and food and beverage services will also open. Current planned operating hours for the gondola will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the Elk Camp chairlift will operate from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Snowmass will also be open until Sept. 7 and weekends through Oct. 4.
More Airlines Shift Flight Schedule
Flight schedules continue to adapt as passenger loads vary because of Covid-19, the Aspen Daily News reported. American Airlines is set to offer a daily service between Dallas-Fort Worth and Aspen this summer. Delta’s flight between Salt Lake City and Aspen is tenuous based on a tentative approval of its suspension because of weak passenger loads.
Of course, if demand picks up this summer, the airlines can adjust their schedules and add flights to the local market. Whatever happens with Delta, the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport will continue to be served by United Airlines in June with 12 flights per week between Denver and Aspen — down from the pre-pandemic schedule of 56 flights per week. Along with American’s daily flights from DFW, the weekly commercial flight total into Aspen for most of June will be at least 19.
Credits Applied to SkiCo Passholders
Aspen Skiing Co. will offer a credit of $250 to holders of the most expensive Premier Pass from the coronavirus-shortened 2019-20 season. That pass will cost $1,999 for winter 2020-21, if buyers put down a $99 deposit by July 15 and pay off the rest by Sept. 1.
For those who had a chamber-of-commerce-discounted pass, or any other season pass product including one- and two-day-per-week passes, SkiCo will likely announce in August how much of a credit will be offered for last season. With uncertainty over the state of commercial tourism and public health orders come next ski season, SkiCo also will offer full refunds for any of its season pass products up until Nov. 20.