WALDO CANYON FIRE: Manitou Springs businesses lay off 74

July 1, 2012
photo - Visitors dine at PJ's Bistro in downtown Manitou Springs on Sunday, July 1, 2012. Photo by Susannah Kay, The Gazette  Photo by SUSANNAH KAY, THE GAZETTE
Visitors dine at PJ's Bistro in downtown Manitou Springs on Sunday, July 1, 2012. Photo by Susannah Kay, The Gazette Photo by SUSANNAH KAY, THE GAZETTE  

Manitou Springs businesses have laid off 74 employees since the Waldo Canyon fire began, said Roger Miller, chief operating officer of iManitou, which functions as the city’s chamber of commerce, economic development office and convention and visitors bureau.

The layoffs were reported to the group by about 15 Manitou businesses, including retailers, restaurants, jewelers and art galleries, but the largest job cuts came at the Garden of the Gods Trading Post, which laid off 35 percent of its staff of more than 100, Miller said.

The Trading Post has been closed since city officials closed Garden of the Gods Park shortly after the fire began on June 23, but the park reopened Sunday and the trading post hopes to recall at least five of its laid-off employees, he said. Other businesses that reported layoffs to Miller asked not to be identified.

“A lot of the other layoffs are at smaller businesses in Manitou that hired summer help, but had to cut back to just the owner working there because nobody is coming into Manitou” to shop and eat at restaurants, Miller said. “People are uncomfortable coming to Manitou because these have a false impression about where the fire is located.”

“We weren’t burned by the fire, but we are being burned by the large number of cancellations at local lodging properties because of what people are seeing and hearing on television,” he said. “That has made it difficult to market our lodging properties.”

The fire comes at a critical time for Manitou businesses, many of which generate a major part of their income during the summer months, Miller said.

“The fourth of July weekend is the biggest weekend of the year for our businesses and June was already down for them,” Miller said. “We are getting a double whammy because the postponement of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb has resulted in even more reservation cancellations. It is a perfect storm of bad things that could happen.” 

Fred Crowley, senior economist for the Southern Colorado Economic Forum, estimated Monday that losses from the fire would cost the Colorado Springs area more than $1 million a day. Joe Raso, CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC, said Saturday that most businesses in Manitou remained open but reported little customer traffic.

The city is a popular tourist destination, and one of its major tourist attractions, Cave of the Winds, has been closed since the fire began June 23.

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