THE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION FACING DOWNTOWN LOUISVILLE BUSINESSES
– Story and photos by Chris Wheeler, a Louisville photojournalist and producer of the 9News documentary, “Coronavirus Winter: A Small Town Portrait in Black and White."
It was the kind of day you dream about during the dead of winter. Temperatures in the 80s. A rainbow of colors adorning the tall trees. A gentle breeze blowing through downtown Louisville.
As it has been for much of the summer, Main Street was packed last Saturday – all day long. The meals that many enjoyed were served with a healthy side of denial — denial that winter is actually coming! It was an easy thing to do. However, anyone who has lived in Colorado for more than a year knows that the weather can turn quickly in October. You may have purged this from your memory, but a year ago – on October 11, 2019 – a snowstorm blew into Colorado leaving strange white stuff on the ground and temperatures dropping to a bone-chilling 10 degrees.
On this perfect autumn day, winter was the last thing any of the visitors to downtown Louisville wanted to think about. But the thought of cold temps and deep snow is certainly on the minds of downtown restaurant owners. The three blocks of Main Street that were closed in June to provide additional seating for restaurant guests will be reopened to vehicular traffic on November 1st. Just about anyone you ask will tell you that the this summer’s Main Street experiment has been a wild success.
On Saturday, Jeff, Lisa and their dog Okami drove down from Berthoud to eat lunch at Moxie Bread Company on Main Street. “We came because of the outdoor seating. It’s comfortable and it’s great for the dog,” said Jeff. Since the pandemic hit last March, Jeff and Lisa have dined inside just two times. “I have no problem eating indoors,” says Lisa. Jeff concurs, but admits if eating indoors was the only option, “we would come less (to Louisville).”
It’s been seven months since COVID-19 swept through our town. The virus shows no sign of relenting. Once Main Street reopens on November 1st, outdoor dining options will be reduced dramatically. With state health guidelines still in place regarding occupancy limitations, restaurant owners are understandably nervous.
With winter on the horizon, lots of questions are being raised. But one fundamental question rises above the rest: "Will diners feel comfortable dining indoors at downtown restaurants this winter?"
For longtime Louisville residents Brad and Jody Lohse, the answer is easy. “I am uncomfortable eating indoors because I have a new grand baby,” said Jody as she dined outdoors at The Waterloo. “I’m very, very careful.”
Their grandchild was born March 22nd, five days after Governor Jared Polis closed restaurants to indoor dining. Saturday was the FIRST time Brad and Jody have eaten at a restaurant since the pandemic began. The Loshes, who are realtors with RE/MAX Alliance, were between house showings when they sat down on Main Street for a quick bite. “We will not dine indoors,” said Brad. “People are just too close.”
New studies show growing evidence that COVID-19 is more likely to be spread by close contact in enclosed spaces. That’s what worries Jody. “While eating, no one is wearing a mask indoors,” she says. Brad says their decision to not eat indoors “comes down to risk and comfort level.” The Lohses say they would consider dining outdoors this winter if the restaurants had adequate heat lamps. Many downtown restaurants are now in the process of winterizing their outdoor dining areas.
Westminster resident Jill Wielinski has a different take. Jill says she would be willing to eat indoors at downtown restaurants this winter. On Saturday, Jill brought a friend visiting from North Carolina to Moxie for coffee. “Restaurants in Louisville are doing a great job keeping customers safe,” Jill said. “Because of their efforts, I am more comfortable dining indoors.”
On this warm autumn day, it was hard to imagine that winter is just around the corner. But the cold reality is that this will be a difficult season for downtown restaurants already devastated by the pandemic. In less than three weeks, Main Street will again re-open. When dining indoors is the only option, how will diners respond? It is a question that brings apprehension to those who own and manage businesses in downtown Louisville.
“I’m worried for restaurants that have tiny inside dining spaces,” says The Waterloo’s Pattie Olebos-Apodaca. “How are they going to make it? “
Meanwhile, on this beautiful fall day, Jill Wielinski summed up the feelings of many visiting on Main Street. “I don’t want to see restaurants closing,” said Jill. “I will continue to support restaurants during winter by ordering carry-out. I hope people will continue to support the local businesses, to help them stay afloat until it there is once again nice weather.”
Return to In-Person Learning – Second Wave
Welcome Back Students! Today we welcomed back the second wave of BVSD students, including those in Grades 3-5, 6 and 9 grades.
The kids were glad to be back – but as this video shows – we think it was the teachers and principals who were most excited today!
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