A Colorado Springs coffee shop was among stops by Gov. Jared Polis on Friday during a tour highlighting the state's economic relief efforts throughout the pandemic.

Polis stopped at various businesses and organizations throughout Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Trinidad, including Loyal Coffee, a Springs coffee company run and owned by six of the shop's baristas.

Polis met with one of the store's owners, Eric Nicol, to discuss the impact that relief efforts such as tax cuts, grants and loans had on the store.

"Any excess cash has been extremely helpful for retaining employees as much as we can, paying rent, lots of different things like that," Nicol said. "The tax break ... was very helpful." 

During three months over the summer, restaurants and bars retained their portions of the state's sales tax. That brought $40 million to $50 million in sales tax relief to small restaurants and bars across the state, Polis' administration said.

The tax reprieve, plus various small business loans and grants, created a path for Loyal Coffee to navigate its way out of the hardships that began when the pandemic — and resulting restrictions to slow the virus — struck in 2020. By summer 2021, Loyal Coffee surpassed its 2019 sales.

"Loyal is about collaboration and community and we love the Springs and love this community and want to keep seeing it grow," Nicol said. "So we're excited that it feels like it's growing right now."

Despite the boost in sales, Loyal, like many other restaurants and industries, struggled to hire employees. The coffee company managed to survive the pandemic without laying off employees, but as the shop experienced "normal" turnover, it has tried to play "catch-up" with training and hiring over the past six months.

"There's pressures on the labor market, which is good for workers, (but) tough on businesses sometimes to fill all the openings they have," Polis said.

Polis stopped earlier in the day at Another Life Foundation in Colorado Springs to discuss a new child tax credit designed to save families money. His scheduled tour also included Colorado State University's 23-acre solar array in Pueblo, to promote his goal of 100% renewable energy by 2040, and the Fox West Theater in Trinidad, to advocate for community revitalization.

"A lot of small businesses are doing even better than they were pre-pandemic," Polis said. "It's really about building back that consumer confidence."

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