Vail Valley restaurant, bar suppliers feeling the pinch
From bread to fish to beer, restaurant closure means a big loss of business for local firms
Most of Patrick Rouaud’s business comes from local hotels and restaurants. Most of his business is gone now.
Rouaud is the longtime owner of Michele’s Bakery in EagleVail. That business is a wholesale supplier. With restaurants, bars and many hotels now closed for at least the next 30 days due to the state government’s efforts to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, there isn’t much to do at the bakery right now.
“We’re going to take a big hit,” Rouaud said. “We’re looking to see what we can do to outside of selling bread to restaurants.”
In Gypsum, Andrew Osborne is in a similar situation. Osborne is the owner of Eagle Smoked Salmon, and has had his business hit in a couple of ways. Osborne sells most of this product through Whole Foods stores, but also sells a lot of salmon to restaurants in the valley and on Vail and Beaver Creek mountains.
Broken supply chain
Those businesses are now closed, of course, but further complicating Osborne’s operation is the inability to get fish. The fish Eagle Smoked Salmon uses comes from Norway, and is shipped on passenger aircraft. With travel shut down between the U.S. and Europe, that supply line has dried up.
At first, Osborne tried to route shipments from Norway to London, then the U.S. But with flights stopped from Great Britain, that supply line has also been eliminated.
“It’s just impossible to get (fish) right now,” Osborne said.
Bonfire Brewing in Eagle also distributes a lot of its products to area bars and restaurants. Bonfire co-owner Amanda Jessen said Bonfire’s usually-bustling taproom in Eagle is now only open between 4 and 7 p.m., and only for people to pick up six-packs and growlers.
Bars, restaurants and the taproom are a “very significant part of our business,” Jessen said.
Liquore stores remain open, and Jessen said the brewery seems to be moving more beer through those outlets. Still, it’s tough.
“We’re trying to be creative, and get some revenue through the door,” Jessen said.
Rouaud also said he’s thinking about ways to sell products from the bakery, although none of those ideas have gone much beyond the thinking stage — the restaurant closure order just came down late Monday afternoon, after all.
No one knows whether the current 30-day closure will be extended, or for how long.
Help is available
Until then, business owners and employees are eligible for either unemployment insurance or low-interest loans.
State Rep. Dylan Roberts, a Democrat who represents Eagle and Routt counties in the Colorado Legislature, Tuesday morning posted a link to the unemployment insurance site on his Facebook page. Roberts Tuesday morning said he’d received 10 or more queries in just a couple of hours. Roberts said both unemployment insurance and Small Business Administration loans do require some paperwork.
But, he added, unemployment applications aren’t “as challenging as other things. The state is taking steps to expedite the process.”
Federal loans are a little more involved, Roberts said, adding that the Colorado Office of Economic Development is working to ease access to those resources.
Everyone hopes this closure doesn’t last long. Jessen said she’s worried that some businesses may not make it if the closure order goes to 60, 90 or 120 days.
And, she said, Bonfire is getting close to the point of deciding whether or not to cancel the brewery’s annual Bonfire Block Party in June.
But Jessen said she believes that when the restrictions are lifted and people can eat out and travel again, they’ll do so with gusto.
Until then, “we intend to weather the storm the best we can,” she said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.