Many Colorado Springs businesses are taking a slow and cautious approach to reopening or returning to offices once Colorado’s stay-at-home order expires.
Gov. Jared Polis said this week that he will allow that order to expire Sunday, but social-distancing and other restrictions will remain in place. As a result, real estate agents plan to begin showing houses Monday, some retailers are planning to reopen on a limited basis May 1, restaurants are preparing to open dining rooms with a smaller capacity if allowed May 15 and banks and several large employers say they are developing plans to bring employees back to their offices.
“There isn’t really clear information available about what we can and cannot do. The confusion level is the biggest challenge,” said Dave Leinweber, owner of west-side fishing retailer Anglers Covey.
“We have been doing curbside pickup, but it has never been clear who could and they never said we couldn’t. Since personal trainers can go back to work on Monday and we consider our guides personal trainers, they will be available Monday.”
Like Angler’s Covey, downtown women’s clothing and gift shop Terra Verde has been selling merchandise online and by phone for curbside pickup since mid-March. Both stores are looking to reopen their doors May 1, but they plan to limit the number of customers who can be in the store at one time, set up lines on the floor to aid social distancing or ask customers to wear masks and use hand sanitizer.
“We’ve been able to maintain about 20% of our revenue with curbside service, so most of our revenue has gone away but not the bills,” Leinweber said.
“We are looking at every expense for ways to reduce them, so that means a flat wage and no bonuses for our employees, and they may get fewer hours on their schedule because revenue is still going to be down after we reopen.”
Terra Verde plans to begin recalling its 18 employees, who have been on sick leave, Monday to prepare for the store’s reopening, said co-owner Carrie Hibbard Baker. Some decisions about how Terra Verde will operate when it reopens are still being made, but Baker said the store wants to make sure “employees and customers feel safe.”
Real estate agents Joe Clement of Re/Max Properties and Eddie Hurt of ERA Shields plan to resume showing houses Monday. They plan to limit the number of people in the showing and ask their clients not to touch anything inside homes they are touring, wear masks and fill out a brief health questionnaire before entering a house. Showings have been banned for the past two weeks under Colorado Real Estate Division rules.
While video showings were allowed under state rules, Clement said few buyers were willing to sign a contract to buy a home in which they had never set foot.
“It’s not like buying a pair of shoes. There is nothing like seeing the home yourself and view out the window,” he said.
Hurt said the change “will be huge” because “people aren’t willing to make an offer on a house if they can’t touch, smell and feel it.” The restrictions against showings, he said, “shut down 80% of the market.”
Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group, which operates Urban Egg and Salsa Brava eateries along the Front Range, and Ascent Restaurant Group, which owns TAPAteria and Pizza Rustica in Old Colorado City, are firming up plans to open in mid-May or later, if allowed under state restrictions. Pizza Rustica likely will remain closed through late May to repair damage from an April 1 flood.
Randy Price, president of Rocky Mountain Restaurant Group, said he plans to expand curbside delivery Saturday to all nine of the company’s restaurants and start recalling furloughed employees in early May to begin cleaning, sanitizing and reconfiguring seating at the restaurants to reduce capacity by 50%. Urban Egg locations in downtown Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Highlands Ranch have been temporarily closed due to the outbreak.
“I expect a majority of our employees will be back by May 15 if we are allowed to reopen then,” Price said, “so we can be ready to make changes, implement new practices and open our dining rooms to welcome back customers.”
Ascent president and owner Jay Gust said decisions on when and how to reopen the restaurants will be dictated by local, state and federal health rules.
He is worried about bringing back his 36 employees too quickly if the restaurants aren’t allowed to reopen next month or sales volumes are low after they do.
Officials at Ent Credit Union and U.S. Bank say they aren’t in a hurry to reopen lobbies, except by appointment, or bring back employees who are working from home.
Jennifer Sussman, chief marketing officer for Ent Credit Union, said Ent will take a “slow, stepped approach” to reopening branch lobbies to customers without an appointment and bringing back the 45% of its employees working from home. Ent is still firming up those and other details, she said.
U.S. Bank has installed plastic shields at teller windows at its supermarket branches, the bank’s lobbies are open by appointment only and many employees are working at home, said Jim Harris, who heads the bank’s Colorado Springs operations. The Minneapolis-based banking giant plans a “slow, gradual approach” to reopening lobbies to customers without an appointment or bringing employees back to the office, he said.
Defense giant Lockheed Martin is developing plans on how it might bring back employees now working remotely and will maintain “minimum staffing and social distancing policies consistent with current federal guidance for our employees who support national security in our factories and labs,” a spokeswoman said.