Eagle County business owners wonder if Colorado's plan to reopen can save tourist-depleted economy

Posted at 10:06 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-22 01:01:52-04

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. — Adam Roustom tries to keep busy. His empty dining room at The Blue Plate is now converted into a mask-making operation on one side and an indoor garden on the other. He uses the now-quiet, light-filled room where patrons used to gather as a sort of green house for the tomatoes and flowers that would normally adorn the tables on his patio.

"Just like everyone else, business is terrible," he explained. "We decided to stay open to keep some semblance of normality for the community."

Like many business owners in Eagle County, Roustom relies heavily on tourism to fuel his business revenue. But COVID-19 shut down the ski lifts at nearby Vail, cutting off the flow of money to secondary businesses like The Blue Plate.

"We are not even making 10% of what we normally do," he said. "If we don’t have business, how are we going to survive until December? That is a long stretch of time."

The county is looking to open businesses again soon. The plan is to reopen for locals only as the county is still closed to tourists. Governor Jared Polis explained in a news conference on Monday that the plans could be approved as early as this week, but without the much-needed tourism dollars, many believe local revenues will not be enough to save many businesses.

"When people are not buying things, I cannot pay my bills," says Jenny Hetei, concerned that her boutique store, Portofino Jewlery, won't survive. Much of the major revenue that comes from spring skiers visiting the area is already gone.

"I have nothing in my bank account to get me through to when tourists come," Hetei said.

But she still holds on hope that, somehow, the community will pull through.

"It is going to work out," she exclaimed with a laugh. "I don’t know how, I don’t have those answers but it is going to work out."