The town of Bayfield has distributed $58,300 in COVID-19 relief grants to local businesses, but with new public health restrictions in sight, grantees are still worried about what lies ahead.
The town distributed the money – a tiny slice of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act – to 24 local businesses in the last month. The effort was meant to help the local organizations recover from the first economic shocks of the pandemic. But the relief was tempered by a new wave of coronavirus cases and restrictions sweeping the state.
“We have a check on our desk that we haven’t cashed yet. We intended to use this to expand our outdoor seating. Now, with the Dial Red, there’s just a lot of uncertainty which direction we need to go,” said Danica Frost, co-owner of the Mill Street Bistro.
La Plata County’s coronavirus outbreak is severe enough that it meets the criteria for a new state-designated COVID-19 response protocol: “Level Red.”
From Nov. 1 to Nov. 17, there were a reported 460 positive cases – more than what was reported during a seven-month period from March 23 to Oct. 31, which had 427 cases.
The level is one step less restrictive than the shutdowns of March and April. With the new designation, La Plata County restaurants must close to indoor dining Friday, but are allowed to offer takeout and delivery.
The Mill Street Bistro planned to use its $3,000 grant and out-of-pocket money for outdoor seating, but there’s no guarantee that business is going to pick up, said Kelsy Westwater, co-owner of the bistro.
“Last time, people in this community and La Plata County came out of the woodwork to support us,” Westwater said. “We hope that continues. Obviously with the holidays looming, nobody has a guarantee on income or jobs.”
The Bayfield relief grants ranged from $1,500 to $3,000 and either reimbursed past coronavirus-related expenses or future costs.
Momentum Fitness in Bayfield used its $3,000 grant to create a yoga studio where one to two people can do virtual yoga classes 24/7.
“I’m just happy and grateful to live in Bayfield,” said Kira Gosney, co-owner of the gym. “The world might be a mess, but everyone we see at the gym is staying kind, being positive and just working on health.”
Pine River Chiropractic used its $3,000 grant to reimburse the costs of six air purifiers that kill viruses and bacteria.
“It has just been an amazing gift. We’re all struggling financially this year. To have the town say, ‘Yes, there’s money here, and we are giving it away’ ... is absolutely wonderful,” said owner Carrie Bergfalk.
Personal protective equipment was also a significant need, along with online commerce. The first-ever municipal partnership with the Fort Lewis College Career Center will provide marketing, social media and e-commerce interns to several businesses, including those who didn’t apply for the funding, said Beth Lamberson, Bayfield economic recovery coordinator.
“Several businesses filled out their requests by hand, in my office (masked of course),” Lamberson said. “We were committed all along to a ‘Bayfield-style’ opportunity that put the business first without any technology barriers.”
Five restaurants received funding for outdoor tents, propane fire pits and structures to expand outdoor seating into the winter months, she said.
“I think every restaurant in this area is overwhelmed right now. It’s just an adjustment again,” Frost said. “We’re very grateful for (the town), but we’re also looking into this new order. We’re just sitting in a lot of uncertainty.”