Lionshead shops aim to outlast construction
VAIL – Craig Arford and other Lionshead business owners say they could use a little help. Arford, who has owned Vail Ski and Bike Tech in Lionshead for 19 years, said his business was down 20 percent over the summer compared to previous years. The Arrabelle at Vail Square project and other projects have turned Lionshead into a massive construction zone.”It’s not catastrophic,” he said. “It’s in the challenging category.”But Arford said he can only absorb this type of loss for so long and the winter will really decide if he will be able to make it.After hearing from Lionshead business owners, the Vail Town Council moved to set aside $50,000 in next year’s budget to help businesses townwide affected by construction. That money would be added to an economic development fund that provided $100,000 this year for various economic initiatives.The council considered a program called Lionshead Passport/Free Gondola Ride Program, but decided not to devote money to it. That program, proposed by the Vail Chamber and Business Association, would have given visitors a free summer gondola ride after getting their “passport” stamped at Lionshead businesses.
“Lionshead deserves a little help here,” said Kaye Ferry, Vail Chamber and Business Association executive director.Council members were amenable to setting aside funds for some type of program to help Lionshead and other Vail businesses affected by construction. “I’m almost willing to guarantee you’ll get support from behind this table,” Councilman Greg Moffet said at a recent meeting with business owners. Bill Jewitt of Bart and Yeti’s bar and restaurant in Lionshead said three of the biggest events in Lionshead from previous years had been moved to avoid construction: the Fourth of July parade, the Vail Arts Festival and Oktoberfest. Jewitt has also said the future of his business will depend on how he does this winter.Retail sales tax collections in Lionshead dropped 30.7 percent in July compared to last year.Discussions aheadAfter the meeting, Ferry said Vail Resorts, the town of Vail and Lionshead merchants will discuss how money set aside to help businesses will be used. The passport program is still being considered, and other programs could be developed, she said.
Town Manager Stan Zemler said many town departments are already devoting funds and resources to help ease construction headaches.Construction is affecting businesses beyond Lionshead, too. Jeannie Robbins of Eagle Valley Music Company in Crossroads, which is in Vail Village, said during the two weeks in-town buses have been diverted by construction, her store’s business is down 50 percent.”We need all the help we can get,” she said. “We’re just about at the end of our rope.”Paul Witt, speaking for Vail Resorts, said the company has funded projects – such as the Kidstruction Zone – that bring people in Lionshead. The company was also involved in funding an ad campaign to help Lionshead businesses.It’s possible that resort company could provide more funds to stoke Lionshead business, or redirect the funds they’ve already set aside, Witt said. “We’re willing to sit down and talk about the best way to approach it,” he said.
Tom Ludwig, co-owner of Montauk Seafood Grill in Lionshead, said his restaurant actually had a better summer this year than the last several years. He’s a little worried about the winter, but he already has solid bookings for the winter holidays, he said.”I’m worried about it, but what can you do?” he said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 604, or email@example.comVail, Colorado