Summit County restaurants hinge hopes on snow |

Summit County restaurants hinge hopes on snow

Jonathan Batuello
Summit County CO, Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado ” The abrupt closure of two Summit County restaurants this week has revealed the strains of the economic crunch on the high country. This trend has jumped the pass into Vail, Colorado, as well.

But restaurant operators have faith that good snow will lure tourists, regardless of the economy.

“Our business is dependent on the weather,” said Bob Starekow, president of the Summit County chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association. “We don’t expect huge drops in business. Like anyone else, we will see ramifications from less international travel, but … we have a unique position on the marketplace.”

On Monday, however, the state Department of Revenue seized Samplings in Frisco and The Cellar in Breckenridge for falling behind on sales-tax payments, and many other tourist-oriented businesses are bracing for tough times.

“I think if (a family) has limited income and more of that goes toward necessities for food at home and for fuel, there’s just less left over for, you know, these other discretionary purchases,” said Todd Herreid, chief economist with the Colorado Legislative Council staff.

One measure for the state’s economic struggles can be seen by reviewing the sales-tax revenues. For September, the state saw a 1.7 percent decrease, from $187.6 million in 2007 to $184.5 million in 2008.

For the fiscal year, which begins on July 1, the state has seen a 3.9 percent decrease, from $569.5 million in 2007 to $547.5 million in 2008.

“Sales-tax revenues are one of the best measures we’ve got for economic activity for consumers … It’s a broader measure that kind of indicates a softening (in the economy),” said Mark Couch, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Revenue.

The rest of the state doesn’t necessarily have tourism to rely on, though.

“Customer counts are down in general, but, however, some restaurants are doing better right now than they have at any time,” said Pete Meersman, president for the Colorado Restaurant Association. “I think restaurants operators that are doing a good job are going to be there when whatever is going on passes, and those that are on the fence or are marginal ” sometimes making ends meet and sometimes not ” those are the ones that are in the most danger.”

Summit County’s restaurants generally have thrived, but Starekow said the credit market has affected the ability to get seasonal loans from banks.

Most restaurants use bridge loans to get from season to season, and it has been harder to get an unsecured line of credit with the market, he said.

Starekow mentioned that his restaurant, Silverheels at the Ore House, is not expecting a decrease in business this year. It is projecting a flat year, which he is considering good given the economic circumstances.

For now, the owners will turn their heads to the sky and hope.

“Everytime you get snow, you go: ‘Aw, only two inches,'” Starekow said. “If we see 12 it’s: ‘Aw we missed those 24 inches.’ It’s always the same.”

Jonathan Batuello can be reached at (970) 668-4653 or

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