Businesses comply with closures during COVID-19 outbreak

Chow Down is a pet supply shop deemed essential. Still, it’s limiting the number of customers, who can enter at a given time.

One-hundred percent of non-critical Montrose businesses have closed their doors amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Montrose Police Chief Blaine Hall said Tuesday.

However, it took some time to get it that way.

Hall said there was some initial confusion as to what was a non-essential and critical business, based on Gov. Jared Polis’ order which limited certain businesses from remaining open.

But after the confusion subsided, all of Montrose’s non-essential businesses have ceased operations, dating back to last week, Hall reaffirmed

“I admire the business owners in this community. This is a very, very tough time for all of them,” Hall said. “It’s been very heart-wrenching for our city to move down this road, but this is in support of the State of Colorado’s and public health’s direction to limit the spread of this virus.”

But such confusion over the state guidelines has been seen at the county and state level.

Montrose County environmental health manager Jim Austin said the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has since come out with two lists, detailing which companies can be opened and closed. The list, though not all-inclusive, can be found at covid19.colorado.gov/stay-home-except-essential-needs.

“This page is really helpful in going through questions about different types of businesses that may not have been specifically worded in the public health order,” Austin said. “It’s really helpful.”

Previously, Austin said, there was some uncertainty about what business could be opened or closed during this time.

Austin said, during April 1’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, this stems from a past mandate’s verbiage which left things open for interpretation.

“It’s really important that we make the right call on these because we’re affecting people’s livelihoods,” Austin said.

Businesses were first made to either close or reduce operations last month.

This came to be after Polis issued an order that bars, restaurants, theaters, gymnasiums, retail stores and casinos all needed to close to limit the spread of COVID-19. In the case of restaurants, take-out and delivery options were made available, but the insides had to be shut down.

This order is to last until April 26.

Local non-essential companies were first notified that they’ll have temporarily shut down by City of Montrose Director of Business of Innovation Chelsea Rosty, who placed calls to the proprietors, informing them of the governor’s order, Hall explained.

He said that if compliance wasn’t followed, police officers served cease and desist orders from the city attorney’s office.

This was a rare occurrence, Hall said, adding only “a handful” were given a cease and desist order. Since then, each business has cooperated, the police chief said.

Companies labeled as essential had to shuffle how they conduct business.

Chow Down Pet Supplies is one business listed as essential because it provides animal food, owner Krista Bush said.

She added the pet store has had to change how it does business.

Chow Down asks customers who want to shop in person to know ahead of time what they’re going to purchase and to not peruse the store, Bush said. They have also limited how many customers can be inside at one time, which follows Polis’ guideline of 10 or fewer in one location, she added.

Bush said Chow Down provides a pick-up option and an expanded delivery option for customers as far as 20 miles away.

Workers have taken measures to prevent the coronavirus spreading by donning face masks, which were donated to them by a customer, Bush said.

But, during the pandemic, the pet store has, for the moment, limited or stopped a few services.

Chow Down narrowed its hours of operation to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. And it temporarily ceased its animal grooming service, as well as its puppy training class.

“We’re trying to operate bare-bones right now,” Bush said. “(We’re) doing what we can to provide people with (what) they need, but do it in a safer way.”

But some companies haven’t been able to stay open during this time.

Hall said though businesses have had to close temporarily, he urged the owners to take advantage of the city’s loan relief package.

This loan was passed by city council on March 31. The measure allows small businesses, both critical and non-essential, to apply for funds to help them keep afloat during the coronavirus epidemic. Companies can apply for the relief package by going to cityofmontrose.org/732/Businesses-Resources and then click the “complete the online application” link.

Hall also reminded that it’s key for residents to stay at home as a way to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“Ultimately, we have to encourage people to stay home for the next two weeks,” Hall said. “It’s critical for our state and country, to get through this crisis, by staying at home.”

Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.

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