How the closure of two Vail restaurants shows coronavirus’ domino effect on the food-service economy
The cows are calving, and of course they come during a surprise blizzard.
“That one there about froze to the ground last night,” says Mike Eaton, pointing to a calf huddling in the mud beneath his mother’s hooves as the morning sun melts spring snow.
Eaton is dumping fresh hay on a trailer for five cows and his bull, Jack. His historic ranch on the banks of the Eagle River in Edwards has been in his family for many decades, long before the second-cousin he called Uncle Earl founded the Vail ski area up the valley. He’s wondering what to do with those hungry cows.
“They don’t really have a purpose,” he said.
A month ago he moved the five healthy heifers from grass to pricey Olathe sweet corn — mixed with maple syrup — preparing them for processing. Then he heard the news that Vail’s venerable Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard restaurants were closing after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
Eaton sends 15 of his cows to the two sister restaurants in Vail Village every year. When they closed suddenly on March 14, he canceled his order for more feed in Olathe. He’s wondering how he’s going to afford the June bill for $20,000 worth of hay without the restaurants buying his cows.
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