Town of Vail spending big on economic recovery efforts
Town looking at spending abut $845,000 on tents to expand restaurants' winter dining areas
- $1 million: Budget for commercial rent relief program.
- $845,000: Estimate for winter operations enhancements.
- $500,000: Community relief fund.
- $196,000: Support for music activations.
- $130,000: Budget for a gift card program and branded face coverings.
The town of Vail has been using its reserves to help local businesses and residents.
The Vail Town Council on Tuesday heard an update about those efforts, including a $1 million commercial rent relief program.
That program is a three-way partnership between landlords, small businesses and the town, with each of those parties covering one-third of a shop’s rent. The town will help individual businesses with a maximum of $15,000. The program is aimed to help with rent until Nov. 30.
For far, the town has received 10 applications for August rent relief, with another 12 pending. The average August relief request is $1,800 per business.
So far in September, the town has received 17 applications for aid, with another 20 pending.
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The town is looking to spend almost $1 million to boost winter operations.
Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar told councilmembers that she, along with representatives of the town’s police, fire and community development departments, have taken a pair of walking tours of Vail Village and Lionshead looking for locations to help restaurants offer more seating in the winter. That extra space is needed so businesses can still comply with social-distancing requirements.
Vlaar said prospective sites are on existing patios and decks.
“In most cases, we were able to make something work to have more seating area, especially at dinner — that when we really need to have those spaces,” Vlaar said.
The current program calls for the town to manage renting tents. The tent vendor will handle setup and takedown. The town will cover the costs of setup and takedown, as well as snow removal and other operational costs.
Restaurant owners will pay for heating — no small expense, Vlaar noted.
In addition to the tents, the program also will create several warming areas in the villages, with fire pits and patio heaters where people can gather to either socialize or wait for their restaurant reservations.
Some of the costs can be covered through state and federal assistance fund.
“We believe (the program) will make a huge difference for restaurants,” Vlaar said.
The town is also ready to spend roughly $110,000 on a gift card program. As proposed, the town will distribute 4,300 $25 cards, with half dedicated to guests and half to local residents.
A memo to the council states that a similar program in Aspen has been successful for both recipients and businesses. In that town, the average return on each redeemed card was more than $50, with an average sale of $80.
Vlaar said local nonprofits would distribute the cards to locals, with guests receiving cards at local lodges.
Councilmember Travis Coggin asked if more cards could be dedicated to residents. A $25 card to a guest isn’t going to influence a decision whether or not to travel to Vail, he said.
Councilmember Jenn Bruno agreed with the idea of providing help to locals in need.
The town is also ready to order about 20,000 branded face masks and gaiters to give to guests. That project will cost about $10,000.
The face coverings are intended as both a reminder to mask up and, perhaps, a memento of a trip to Vail. While the idea is to give away the coverings, Bruno suggested guests could be asked to provide a donation to an employee relief fund, perhaps specifically for those who are quarantined.
Vlaar said Bruno’s idea is a good one, so donations may happen.
With the current projects and spending for other efforts, the town has already put roughly $2.7 million into economic recovery efforts. That money has come from the town’s reserve funds.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.