This coming weekend, restaurant tables will replace cars on 25th Street between Pikes Peak and Colorado Streets in Historic Colorado City.
Susan Quintana, who owns the Vino Colorado winery at Sweet Elephant, is hoping to close the road and the debut of the outdoor dining program OCC Al Fresco will be a lifeline for her cafe and winery.
“COVID has destroyed our business,” she said. “First we were down to 10% of our normal income, then to 40% when we reopened, and now we are down to 5% to 10% again.”
The new project is one of 14 projects funded under the third round of the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Revitalizing Main Streets program.
Two other cities in El Paso County will also benefit from the initiative to boost the economy during the COVID-19 crisis.
Along the Manitou Springs business district, barricades will cordon off parking lots on Manitou Avenue to make room for guests, cyclists and pedestrians alfresco.
The Fountain business district is expected to soon receive $ 50,000 worth of intersections and sidewalks, including ramps, bumps, and bike racks that are accessible to Americans with disabilities.
The improvements couldn’t come at a better time, business owners say.
“Getting loans that you can’t pay back doesn’t help,” said Quintana. “We’re going to start a lot of companies next year that will go under.”
An estimated 110,000 restaurants, about one in six across the country, have closed permanently, the National Restaurant Association said this week.
Since most Coloradans are unlikely to get a COVID vaccine by next summer, restaurants will grapple with the same coronavirus cold in 2021.
“We all have limited hours,” said Quintana of businesses and restaurants in the Old Colorado City shopping district.
Additionally, El Paso County’s COVID restrictions mean that only five people can pick up a takeaway order at their coffee shop at a time.
“Last weekend I asked people to sit on a park bench and we took their orders out,” said Quintana. “One problem is that the rules are constantly changing and you don’t know how it will be from day to day. It’s almost hysterical. “
Colorado Springs entrepreneurs are responding to increased COVID restrictions
The cities and other public bodies that receive the revitalization grants for the modification of state roads and other public spaces must provide a budget allocation of 10%.
The $ 26,448 Old Colorado City grant will pay for 10 new outdoor dining tables, plus patio heaters, rain tents, traffic drums with landscaping, bike racks, barricades and signs.
Mother Muff’s Kitchen and Spirits, a restaurant and bar that has been closing repeatedly over the past few weeks, will share part of the outdoor space with the Colorado Vino Winery at Sweet Elephant. The project is a joint effort by the City of Colorado Springs and the Historic Area Trade Association. The goal is to open the new feature this coming weekend, said Quintana.
The Manitou Springs grant of $ 48,848 will repurpose parking spaces to encourage outdoor dining and shopping and add 16 bike racks. Barriers and ADA-accessible curb ramps are also planned.
The project has been conditionally approved for grant funds, but organizers are still waiting for a final waiver before they can proceed, CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson said.
Fountain’s proposal is also missing documentation, but it has received funding approval, Wilson said. The $ 50,000 fountain is the largest amount awarded under the program.
Jeff Jones, Manitou’s public works director, says companies are reporting “major lost revenue” due to the pandemic slowing pedestrian traffic and occupancy restrictions.
“Limited outdoor seating continues to reduce their ability to relax,” he said in the grant application. “Additionally, residents are concerned about the lack of social distancing in their primary business district.”
In an August Small Business Pulse poll by the US Census Bureau, nearly 79% of small businesses across the country said they had a moderate to large negative effect from the pandemic.
The National Retail Federation’s annual vacation spending forecast, released on Nov. 23, predicts retail sales will grow 3.6% to 5.2% from 2019, including a 20% to 30% increase in online purchases. However, the organization has stated that retailers are increasingly pessimistic about how long the economic recovery will take.
Since the major road revitalization program began in June, 59 grants have been awarded across Colorado.
In a previous round of funding, the City of Colorado Springs received a $ 22,687 grant to expand its Dine Out Downtown summer initiative. The construction of South Tejon Street on Friday introduces a new design for outdoor dining options.
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