BRECKENRIDGE — The Breckenridge Tourism Office and the town of Breckenridge hosted a virtual community update on the reopening process Friday morning. Town leaders discussed the pedestrian-only Main Street closure, messaging to guests around preventing the spread of COVID-19, and the upcoming openings around town.
Mayor Eric Mamula said that while the county has submitted a variance request to the governor that would include a June 1 opening of short-term rentals and restaurants with social distancing protocols, the variance request followed 28 other county variance requests, so there is a longer turnaround time.
“We have been in contact with CDOT and the state about doing some variable messaging all over the state to sort of remind our guests as they’re on their way up here that you need to have a mask with you. This is not an optional thing and every business in the county is going to be enforcing mask use on their premises,” Mamula said.
Mamula said these protocols are the only way the town will continue to stay open — if visitors come and infect the town and the county, causing a spike in coronavirus cases, the town might need to close down again.
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Town manager Rick Holman said that over the past week town hall has transitioned into taking in-person appointments as needed and will slowly start bringing more employees into the workplace. He said the Breckenridge Golf Club course will open in one week, which is around the time it would normally open.
“There’s a lot of things I think (that are) really going to start to happen next week. A lot of information is going to come out, a lot of transitioning to kind of a new level of different openings,” Holman said.
Holman noted the recreation center is a slower process as recreation centers are still considered a high-risk area. He said there may be a soft opening of the center in mid June, but this would likely be on a reservation-type basis in order to control the number of people in the area. Holman said the ice rink will likely not open until July as the town has used the time to do maintenance work on the structure. Holman also said Breck Free Ride will be resuming some service on June 1.
Lucy Kay, president and CEO of the Breckenridge Tourism Office, said that as people begin to travel they should check the website of their destination as well as the website of the hotel they are staying in or any recreation activities they may be participating in multiple times because things are changing rapidly.
“Our messaging on a state level is we are encouraging guests that are going to start traveling to be mindful that the protocols are different in every single destination,” Kay said.
Kay noted that nationally the travel industry has lost $176 billion and travel spending is down 86% since March. She said the Denver International Airport is slowly opening to more flights and that international airline carriers are looking at late June and July as start dates for their schedules.
Kay also discussed general travel sentiment based on national data, which showed that people feel safest traveling by car and that the idea of safety in a destination is much more important to people at this time than any travel deals. People feel the safest in outdoor destinations and they’re more comfortable staying in short-term rentals as opposed to hotels and resorts, Kay said.
As for the pedestrian-only Main Street, restaurateur Ken Nelson reiterated the plans for the walkway, which includes closing north Main Street to motor traffic from Watson Avenue to Jefferson Avenue so that restaurants may extend their service into the street and social distancing can be promoted.
“It was decided early on that having a large area for people to walk downtown would make sense just in social distancing, a way to kind of provide the town a little bit of an identity coming out of the other side of (these) closures that we’ve been going through,” Nelson said.
Nelson pointed out that there will be cross street traffic at Ski Hill Road and Main Street as well as other ways to cross town. He said restaurants will be provided with set outdoor dining areas of four tables for 16 people with distancing of eight feet and that restaurateurs who apply for an extension to their liquor license to this area will have to monitor alcohol as each restaurant’s liquor license will be contained to their set areas.
The current plan to start the opening of the area to pedestrians and restaurants is June 12, according to Nelson, and this will last for six to eight weeks. The area will close at 9 p.m. every night and any restaurant on Main Street will be eligible to participate, including restaurants outside of the closure area. Restaurants will have to apply via an application process.
Nelson said the town is working on factoring retail stores into this opening, but that this may come slower. Holman noted that there will be a proposal to council at the Tuesday night town council meeting that will propose paid parking be turned back on at the same time as the closure of Main Street.
Holman also said that some businesses have asked if they can use pop-up tents. Holman said while they would have to go through the town due to fire department wind guidelines and potential view blocking of retail businesses, the town is open to talking with businesses about tent use. As for bathrooms, Holman said more public restrooms will be opened and the town is looking into placing Port o Potties in the area with aggressive cleaning schedules.