Vail relief efforts will include warming areas in villages, domes
The town in January will unveil a direct-assistance program for businesses
This story has been clarified regarding the town of Vail’s recent private gathering ordinance.
A town of Vail ordinance limiting household gatherings expired Tuesday. It won’t be renewed. The town is also looking to provide a different kind of small business assistance.
Councilmembers said it was time to let the household gathering ordinance lapse. That ordinance, which went into effect Nov. 23, applied to all private homes, short-term rentals, hotels, and restaurant and bar seating, and was more restrictive than the current private gathering limitation of two households and 10 individuals set by the State of Colorado for Eagle County and other jurisdictions that are currently in the “Orange” level of COVID-19 public health restrictions.
“It did its job as intended,” Vail Mayor Dave Chapin said during a Tuesday Zoom meeting, acknowledging that there seemed to be “a lot of confusion” about the intent of the ordinance, which limited gatherings to a single household in order to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“The message got out,” councilmember Brian Stockmar said, noting that national and state COVID-19 trends now are different from those seen in Eagle County.
“I said early on that I hated the idea of restrictions on people’s homes,” Stockmar said. But, he added, officials need to ask people to limit their gatherings over the Christmas holiday season.
“I know it’s hard; I know it’s restrictive,” Stockmar said, adding that it doesn’t make sense to renew the ordinance, and that the requirement would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.
During the update on the town’s COVID efforts, Vail Economic Development Director Mia Vlaar told the council that her department is looking at more ways to help small businesses in town.
Vlaar acknowledged that a $1 million commercial rent relief program approved in early August hadn’t lived up to its promise. Vlaar said that program failed to gain much traction in part due to a requirement for participation from the town, businesses and landlords.
Vlaar said she’ll be back before the council in January with a program similar to the $3 million business relief program recently announced by Eagle County.
That program will be “direct aid,” Vlaar said.
Vail officials are also looking at ways to participate quickly if state officials announce a program similar to Mesa County’s “five star” program that allows certain businesses some relief from state restrictions.
Vlaar added that the town has already seen some successes from a program of winter entertainment and small gathering spaces in the resort villages.
Warming areas are nearly ready, Vlaar said. There should be eight small fire pits around the villages for small groups to warm up outside while waiting for a restaurant table or enjoying a beverage.
There will also be a quartet of 12-foot domes in place by early January. The domes will hold up to 12 people and will be sterilized after every use, Vlaar said.
While restaurants struggle with limited occupancy, Vlaar said that a town idea to allow food trucks in the villages just won’t work in the winter.
The idea was to allow local restaurants to set up food trucks to help provide guests with outdoor dining options. Vlaar said she’d been told by restaurant owners that running a truck and a restaurant wouldn’t work.
“We don’t have vendors stepping up to do that,” Vlaar said, adding that maybe warmer weather will allow town officials and restaurant owners to re-visit the idea.
In addition to the warming areas and other efforts, Vlaar said skating shows at the Solaris ice rink have been “well received.” Small-scale music performances are also being booked.
“We’re approaching this one quarter at a time,” Vlaar said. “Right now we’re focused on public health orders… and how to enhance the visitor experience.”
• Eagle County recently allocated $3 million for business relief.
• Vail let expire an emergency ordinance limitng household gatherings.
• Vail still has $280,000 left of a $500,000 allocation to assist local nonprofits with food, shelter and healthcare assistance.
• The town in January will unveil a direct-assistance program for businesses.
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