| AspenTimes.com

Business Briefs: New jeweler in Aspen; Alpine Bank named best in Colorado

Jeweler to open in Tom Thumb building

Oliver Smith Jeweler will open its newest boutique — on the second floor of the historic Tom Thumb building, 400 E. Hyman Ave., downtown Aspen — on July 4.

“We are thrilled to be growing our presence in Aspen,” said Oliver Smith, founder. “We began selling luxury watches in 1985 at our first boutique in Scottsdale. As the Oliver Smith Jeweler brand’s trust and reputation grew, clients have been eager to sell and trade their own timepieces. They also know they can trust purchasing a certified pre-owned watch from the Oliver Smith Jeweler team, who have been in the watch and jewelry business for 39 years.”

As a tribute to Aspen, Oliver Smith has designed a bracelet inspired by the Bauhaus movement. Produced in a limited-edition series of 100, the bracelet will be available exclusively in the Aspen boutique and 100% of the proceeds from the Aspen bracelets will go to Response, a local organization helping domestic violence and abuse victims.

More information at www.oliversmithjeweler.com.

Alpine Bank named best in Colorado

ColoradoBiz magazine named Alpine Bank the winner of its Best Bank 2020 award honors. Alpine Bank also was runner-up in recognition in the magazine’s Wealth Management and Mortgage award categories for this year.

“While current times are testing us all, we deeply appreciate this recognition from our customers to whom we owe our success,” said Alpine Bank founder and Chairman Bob Young. “We have always been and continue to be all in this together.”

Alpine Bank is a $3.9 billion, employee-owned organization chartered in 1973. Its corporate headquarters are located in Glenwood Springs. More information at www.alpinebank.com.

Monday Business Briefs: Pay-it-forward program underway through Aspen Chapel; Snowmass office announces promotions

Aspen Chapel launches pay-it-forward program

Aspen Chapel has launched a fundraising concept to pay it forward in an effort to boost the local economy and help local businesses that have suffered during the COVID crisis.

“During Pay It Forward, we invite you to purchase gift cards from the local businesses you love and donate these to the Aspen Chapel for our Pay It Forward campaign,” the church said in a statement issued last week. “This is a powerful way to support local businesses in their time of need.”

The chapel plans to hold an online auction, in lieu of its Annual Gala, to resell the gift cards. A portion of the donated gift cards will be sold below face value to support those who are facing financial hardship and can benefit from the below-cost gift cards to local businesses.

All funds raised during the online gift card auction will support the chapel’s programs, including COVID-19 response.

The chapel suggests buying gift cards from restaurants, hotels, salons, toy stores, clothing shops, coffee shops and other local business. There is no minimum value or limit to the gift cards, which can be bought through July 15.

The gift cards can be sent either electronically to info@aspenchapel.org or by mail/drop-off to 77 Meadowood Drive, Aspen, CO 81611.

“Each year, we ask for donations of items and gift certificates from our local businesses for our Annual Gala’s silent auction. And each year, they deliver,” said Heather Macdonald, the chapel’s managing director. “This year, in solidarity with local businesses and the hardships they are facing, it’s our turn to share the love during our annual fundraising event.”

SSF promotes Rod Woelfle in Snowmass

Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate announced the promotion of broker Rod Woelfle to office branch broker at its new Snowmass location in what was formerly the Snowmass Base Village development sales office. The firm also has hired eight new brokers to work under Woelfle in the Snowmass office.

Last month, SSF was named the official listing broker for the $600 million Snowmass Base Village.

The newly formed sales team consists of Chris Searles, Steve Harriage, Monica Montany and Sara Halferty, who comprise the whole ownership team. Working on fractional sales are new brokers Greg Traxler, Ivan Scoric, Taylor Burstyn and Michael McGinnis.

“I am honored and excited that SSF has entrusted me with the leadership of the largest development project in the company’s 60-year history,” Woelfle said. “We’ve got a dedicated and experienced team coming in to the new Snowmass Base Village location. Together, we have a wealth of knowledge about the area, and we can’t wait to get started.”

Aspen lodges opening for summer under a cloudy future

Aspen’s largest hotels are expecting smaller crowds this summer and some are anticipating more labor cuts into the fall.

Lodges have been gradually opening since public health orders allowed them to take overnight guests beginning May 27 under 50% capacity restrictions. Friday was the return of The Little Nell, Limelight and St. Regis. Hotel Jerome opens June 18.

The downtown accommodations usually would be preparing for next week’s big crowds in town for the Food & Wine Classic, traditionally held the third weekend of June but canceled this year.

With Food & Wine and Aspen’s other big-time summer events off the calendar, however, along with global coronavirus pandemic and public health order restrictions that have severely hampered the hospitality industry, the outlook for the next few months is less upbeat than usual, based on recent public filings.

Since June 2, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment received notifications from the St. Regis and W Aspen hotels regarding layoffs, furloughs and other labor measures connected to the coronavirus pandemic.

The letters were addressed to the CDLE and Mayor Torre under the Worker Readjustment and Retraining Notification Act. Each letter had nearly identical language, other than the number of affected employees. St. Regis said 263 of its 264 workers could be impacted; for W Aspen, 124 of its staff of 125 have been noticed of potential measures.

“The purpose of WARN (Worker Readjustment and Retraining Notification Act) is to provide employees affected by layoff with the time needed to become employed in order to minimize the negative economic impacts to individuals, families and communities and on the public unemployment insurance trust,” said a CDLE official in an email to The Aspen Times.

The federal law applies to business with 100 or more full-time permanent workers that will be laying off at least 50 employees from a single location.

The W Aspen, an 88-guestroom slopeside lodge near the gonodola on Aspen Mountain, is part of the Marriott brand and opened in August. St. Regis, which also is ski-in, ski-out, has 179 rooms and is on the mountain’s western base.

Letters from both hotels said they instituted such temporary measures as employee furloughs, layoff and hour reductions March 21, believing they would not go past six months.

“Based on public health guidance and business forecasts available at the time (in March), it was initially expected that these temporary actions would last significantly less than six months and that the location (St. Regis Aspen) would return to normal business levels,” the notices said. “These government COVID-19 directives, however, have repeatedly been expanded and extended and have forced people to remain in place, restricting business, large gatherings and travel in general. These expanded and extended government directives have caused a sudden, severe and worsening downturn in the hospitality industry that now makes it reasonably foreseeable that these temporary actions may extend beyond six months.”

Questions to W Aspen management concerning the extent of labor cuts were answered by its Marriott parent, which declined to go into specifics about possible measures it might take in Aspen.

“Due to widespread travel and social distancing restrictions, we have experienced significant drops in customer demand. Hotels are adjusting operations accordingly, which has impacted employment, resulting in staffing reductions, temporary leaves, and in some cases, termination notices,” said Marriott spokeswoman Casey Kennett in a statement to The Aspen Times.

Aspen Skiing Co.’s local lodges include The Little Nell and Limelight in Aspen, and another Limelight in Snowmass Village. Its Residences at Little Nell, a fractional property, opened May 28. The company hasn’t taken major labor cuts yet with its hotels’ staff.

“We had no salary reductions, pay cuts or furloughs,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle in email to The Aspen Times. “Of course employees were impacted when we were unable to open the hotels as originally scheduled, but most of those impacted were able to access unemployment benefits. We worked with salaried employees to find project work for them to do if they did not have enough work through their regular job and duties. Some salaried employees elected to take unemployment.”

Those workers on unemployment will return to Skico’s lodging properties “as needed to operate the properties at the allowable level. Those who have not yet returned to work because of restricted business levels can continue on unemployment until we are able to return to full staffing,” Hanle said.

While Skico closed its mountains March 17 in response to Gov. Jared Polis’ order shutting down ski area, employees were paid through the month, Hanle said.

“At that time we assisted with accessing their unemployment benefits, donated food and goods to our staff, and kept their benefits whole as they were at the time of the shutdown,” Hanle said. “We also waived rent for the month of April as Prilosec for employees living in ASC housing units.”

Pitkin County’s hospitality industry represents 24% of its jobs, according to report issued Wednesday by Silverthorne-based Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, which covers Eagle, Grand, Jackson, Pitkin and Summit counties

The five-county region had an overall employment rate of 21% in April, compared with 12% in Colorado and 14.7% that month.

“The main underlying cause of this is the heavy dominance of one industry: Tourism,” wrote Rachel Lunney, director of economic development Silverthorne-based Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, in the organization’s June update released Wednesday. “Tourism jobs account for upwards of 33% of all jobs in some of our region’s counties.”


Two Roaring Fork Valley restaurants announce temporary closures after employees test positive for COVID-19

Meat and Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop announced Friday evening it is temporarily closing in response to one of its employees receiving a positive COVID-19 test result that morning.

According to Wendy Mitchell, owner of both Meat and Cheese and Hooch Craft Cocktail Bar, the employee came to work Wednesday, went through the restaurant’s daily temperature and health screening — which is part of its COVID-19 health and safety protocols — and self-reported symptoms including a sore throat, aches and pains.

Mitchell said the employee was directed to either go home and quarantine for 14 days or take a COVID-19 test. The employee decided to get tested Thursday and received the positive result Friday morning.

“The employee reported the test result to me and said someone from the county would call me,” Mitchell said. She went on to explain that she called the county’s testing phone number early Friday to try to get some more information on if she should close the restaurant or if other employees should quarantine, but was told to wait for a contact tracer to call her.

Mitchell said Meat and Cheese opened for lunch Friday and that a contact tracer called her around 2 p.m., informing her she did not have to close the restaurant.

However, Mitchell felt that for the safety of her employees and customers she should shutter the popular Aspen eatery and farm shop for a short time, sending out a news release about the closure just before 5 p.m. Friday.

“While we have been informed that we are not required to close our restaurant, in an abundance of caution we have decided to close for a short time for a massive deep cleaning and sanitation,” the news release said.

By 6 p.m., she had talked with a county contact tracer again and was informed she and another manager who had been in close contact with the employee needed to quarantine for 14 days, meaning Meat and Cheese would be closed for roughly 14 days as well.

“Without the two management positions we don’t have enough depth to keep things open,” Mitchell said. “But I feel like closing regardless is the right thing to do. … I’m not going to be the only one who is going to have to make these decisions and I feel like people have to go off of their own moral code. For me, this is my community and these are my friends … and I feel a sense of responsibility to close out of respect for them.”


Mitchell isn’t the only Roaring Fork Valley restaurant owner who has voluntarily chosen to close their business’ doors in response to an employee testing positive for COVID-19.

On Tuesday, Heather’s Savory Pies and Tapas Bar in Basalt made a similar move after Heather Lujan, the store co-owner the restaurant is named for, received a positive COVID-19 test result the evening before.

“We were floored that without having any major symptoms she was positive,” said Rene Lujan, the restaurant’s co-owner and Heather’s husband, during an interview Friday morning. He noted that Heather experienced some headaches, a slight cough and some achiness in her legs, which she just attributed to being on her feet all day. She got tested as a safety precaution.

“Who knows where this creeped in from, but all I know is that when something like this happens we’re not going to take it lightly and we’re not going to put the community at risk or my employees at risk. We just have to handle the situation.”

Heather received her positive test result Monday evening, Rene said. The couple informed their other 14 employees of the test result and posted a temporary closure sign on their door the next morning.

On Wednesday, the restaurant announced the temporary closure on its Facebook page, informing customers that in the best interest of everyone, “we decided the best and safest course of action was to suspend operations while the entire staff awaits test results,” the post says.

“I don’t want people putting the COVID-19 sign on our restaurant that leads us to lose customers. That’s why we’re being so transparent about this,” Rene said Friday. “I want people to know that we always follow the protocols in place, we sanitize constantly, we do what we’re supposed to do.”

Rene went on to say all restaurant employees have been quarantining and have been tested for COVID-19. As of Friday morning, three tests had come back negative, he said. Some of the Lujans’ friends who had been in close contact with Heather also have gotten tested.

According to a prepared statement from Eagle County’s public health director, Heath Harmon, individual COVID-19 case reports like Heather’s cannot be confirmed for confidentiality reasons. However, his statement said the county investigates all positive cases, usually within 24 hours, with two goals at the forefront: identify likely exposure and prevent spread by identifying and quarantining close contacts.

Pitkin County public health officials are following similar contact tracing guidelines and working toward similar goals through its “box it in” strategy, with people who test positive being required to isolate and county contact tracers going to work right away.

Karen Koenemann, public health director for Pitkin County, said via text message Friday that the county is currently working on the Meat and Cheese employee positive case investigation and contact tracing, and that “Meat and Cheese restaurant has done everything right.”

As of end of day Thursday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reported 63 COVID-19 cases for Pitkin County confirmed since the coronavirus outbreak started. Aspen has not seen a surge in new cases since the opening of restaurants and lodging, as previously reported.

Eagle County has reported 622 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the outbreak, with five pending test results.


For the Lujans, this sudden closure of Heather’s Savory Pies and Tapas Bar is a devastating blow to their business, as the local Basalt spot known for its potpies and live music had just reopened for in-person dining shortly after it was allowed by Eagle County on May 25.

Before then, the restaurant was offering take-out only and probably wouldn’t have made it through without the PPP loan it received and continued community support, Rene said.

“During that take-out time a lot of (restaurant owners) opted to close because you don’t get rich off of doing take-out, but my outlook was, ‘Well, we’ve been a community restaurant and I’m going to stay open and figure this out for the community,’” Rene said.

“Then just when we’re reopening, just when our customers are coming back and we’ve got music happening and sunshine outside then we get a thunderstorm. It’s devastating and I don’t know if people realize how devastating it is.”

For Mitchell, the closure of Meat and Cheese is a similar blow. She said like Heather’s, the Aspen restaurant has been open for take-out and limited farm shop business since the COVID-19 outbreak under Pitkin County restrictions, and resumed in-person dining as soon as it could May 27.

But now that she is temporarily closing out of respect for her employees and customers, Mitchell said she “hasn’t even had a minute to think of how we’ll get through this.”

Mitchell hopes Meat and Cheese will reopen in roughly two weeks and Rene said Heather’s plans to reopen June 22, the day after Father’s Day.

Rene said the Basalt restaurant also plans to up its health and safety protocols in place, regardless of what the Eagle County public health guidelines allow.

Rene said that means requiring all restaurant staff to wear masks and implementing even more cleaning and disinfecting requirements than it already had in place due to COVID-19.

On Friday morning, Rene said Heather was doing pretty well and isolating in a bedroom at the couple’s home — though he acknowledged she was upset that she couldn’t cook and was having to put up with his bad cooking.

When asked how the Basalt area community has responded to the restaurant closure and Heather’s positive COVID-19 test result, Rene said there had been some game of telephone-like misinformation spread around, but that overall the community has been very supportive of the restaurant’s transparency and has wished Heather a speedy recovery.

“This is a pandemic happening around the world and in a sense it is a curse when you have to close your business, but it’s something you have to handle and that will pass,” Rene said. “We’re committed to cleanliness and we sanitize constantly, so I hope there won’t be a stigma placed on us when we do reopen. … We want everyone to feel safe and welcome at Heather’s.”


Downtown Aspen’s commercial carousel takes a pause

Forecasting the future of Aspen-area commercial real estate has earned Randy Gold regular speaking engagements at the Aspen Board of Realtors’ annual luncheon, and his company has done more than 24,000 property appraisals over the past four-plus decades.

These days, however, Gold is shunning the crystal ball when it comes to commercial real estate downtown, whether it concerns property values or demand for commercial leases.

“It’s too soon to tell,” he said last week. “Most of the landlords have tried to do some kind of accommodating; whether willingly or begrudgingly, most of them are doing that. But I don’t think anyone I know is making any long-term commitments.”

A rent-relief program, introduced by the city in response to the pandemic, is aiding more than 100 Aspen businesses from April through July. The program requires financial participation from tenants, landlords and the city, with each paying one-third of the monthly rent. Tenants are receiving an average subsidy amount of $8,320.

Public health orders, put in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, restrict retailers and restaurants from maximizing their business potential because of capacity limitations, yet the city is opening up certain public right of ways, like parking spaces downtown, to outdoor dining.

Restaurants are allowed to be open at 50% capacity with their tables at least 8 feet apart. Gone this summer also are those marquee events that help butter the bread of Aspen’s retail economy — from the Food & Wine Classic to the Aspen Music Festival and School.

At the same time, Aspen’s retail scene this summer isn’t seeing an exodus of shops and restaurants. It’s also not seeing an onslaught of openings, yet a few businesses are debuting downtown, such as the Pie Shop Aspen restaurant in the Mill Street pedestrian mall.

“I think a lot of people think there are going to be a massive retail vacancies downtown, and we’re not seeing that,” said commercial property broker Karen Setterfield, whose clients include downtown landlords Tony Mazza and Frank Woods.

Last week Setterfield was the broker on leases signed for Yvel fine jewelry at 525 E. Cooper Ave. and Gallerie Y at 430 E. Hyman Ave. Both spots previously had been occupied by skin-care boutiques whose employees handed out free lotion samples to passersby and were the subject of numerous court complaints about their sales tactics. Gallerie Y will have the work of Aspen photographer Larry Weidel, Setterfield said. Guadalupe Laiz also extended her gallery lease in the Mill Street mall, so things are looking up in some aspects, Setterfield said.

The outdoor malls were active over the weekend, and not just during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. But the recent evidence of human activity in the malls won’t mean much when the tenants’ leases come up for renewal, said longtime Aspen commercial broker Bob Langley, now with Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate LLC.

“Nobody knows what’s going on,” he said. “Nobody does, and because of that the leases that have to be extended now are not extended now. People are waiting. There are people willing to do a pop-up situation, maybe, but everybody is nervous.”

Reluctance among current retailers and potential tenants to commit to long-term leases has the market more or less at a standstill, Langley and Gold said. Things should crystallize after Labor Day if not the November elections, given both the magnitude and multitude of such factors as the economy, jobs, PPP funding, social unrest, politics, the global pandemic and the event of a surge later this year in COVID-19 cases.

Bryan Semel, one of the brokers on the lease that will bring Eden Fine Art to Aspen this summer, possibly as early as July, said deals are going to look different in the future. Future demand for long-term leases is in question, Semel said, noting that the city’s permit fees and other charges “don’t make it the most inviting business atmosphere.”

Eden, which has galleries in New York City, will take up all 7,200 square of the new building at 534 E. Cooper Ave., where Boogie’s Diner used to be.

On the sales side of the commercial market, buildings suited for restaurants might give potential buyers pause in the current economic climate, Gold said. Buildings more suited toward retailers with durable income will have more allure, he said.

“Everyone is different, but if I’m an investor, I’m thinking about the long term and the seller might say, ‘Yeah, we’ve got all of this history with good tenants and high rents.’ But how durable is that moving forward if this (social distancing norms, the looming possibility of public health restrictions) is the new model?”

Both Gold and Setterfield said they were unaware of any commercial buildings in Aspen that have been put on the market since the global pandemic broke out in March.


Adventure Park, both hot springs to reopen Monday in Glenwood Springs

All three of Glenwood Springs’ biggest attractions will reopen Monday.

Gov. Jared Polis gave the OK for the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort Pool, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and Iron Mountain Hot Springs to reopen after both attractions were closed for nearly three months because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In an announcement on their website Friday, Glenwood Hot Springs said they would reopen at 9 a.m. Monday with a social distancing plan in place. Details on that plan and what people can expect can be found here.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park reopening plansDownload

Iron Mountain Hot Springs and Adventure Park Owner Steve Beckley said the news made for the best day he’s had in a while.

“It’s a big sigh of relief,” he said after receiving the news Friday. “But we’re also still a little stressed. What’s going to change travel-wise (for people)?”

Current events mean uncertainty persists about how far people might be willing to travel for summer vacations, but Beckley sees cause for optimism both for his businesses and for the greater Glenwood Springs business community in the ability to reach and attract visitors closer to home.

“We believe people are going to stick close to home and want to get out into the open air,” he said. “At the adventure park, each visitor will have 500 square feet of social distancing, so we think people are going to be excited to visit — we’re way excited about it.”

With a lower ceiling for the maximum allowable number of visitors, the summer likely won’t be the best season for the adventure park or Iron Mountain, but Beckley said an early June opening puts the park and hot spring in a good position to rebuild reserves and prepare for a true back to normal come next year.

“I’m still bullish (about the 2020 summer tourism season),” he said. “People love Glenwood, and this town’s still safe.”

Reopening wouldn’t have been possible without two critical partners, Beckley said: Garfield County officials and his employees.

“The county has really stepped up and gone to bat for us,” he said. “Tom Jankovsky has done a phenomenal job. … And the health department has been instrumental.”

Beckley offered considerable praise to his employees. They were paid through the shutdown both with government assistance but also with reserves from the park.

“We have some really loyal employees who have been of great benefit to us while we’ve been closed,” he said.


Taster’s owner taking second bite into Snowmass Center, plans to open diner this summer

Taster’s pizzeria is taking another slice of the Snowmass Center.

The owner of the popular Italian food eatery that has had the corner spot in the center for the past 19 years is planning to take over an additional 1,300 square feet in the space that was home to another locals’ hangout for Snowmass residents, The Village Tavern.

The Tavern, formerly the Mountain Bayou among other eateries through the years, will not reopen, Jordan Sarick, principal of Eastwood Developments and its Eastwood Snowmass Investors affiliate, said Friday.

That offseason change allowed the owners of Taster’s to expand his footprint and menu. The two locations will bookend Sundance Liquor & Gifts store, and Taster’s owner Stacy Forster said Friday it all “kind of come to pass fairly quickly so I’m still working on concept and names. I’ve got to get in there and clean it first.”

Forster said the new place will maintain a diner feel and this summer will only be open for breakfast and lunch. If he can “get all the legal stuff in order” he would like to open for the Fourth of July weekend.

He plans to incorporate dinner and the full bar for the next winter season. That in turn will help him when the Snowmass Town Center undergoes its major renovation.

The Snowmass Center is under review for a massive remodel and expansion. The second location “will give them flexibility around construction and help them stay open during construction,” Sarick said.

Forster is no stranger to construction issues. He had to close his Aspen location at Rio Grande Place in August after more than 10 years because of the city of Aspen’s construction for its new office building.

“My thinking is that when we move into the new Snowmass Center, we’ll have bigger space, bigger full bar, and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Forster said. “It will almost be a merging of the two ideas. This is giving me a lead up to that, and dealing with menu items and seeing what works.”

On May 18, Snowmass Town Council finished its preliminary review of the proposed Town Center redevelopment. That allows Eastwood to move ahead with prepping and submitting its final development application. Sarick said Friday they are not sure on a time frame for the final submission.

“Right now, everyone has pencils down and is working away,” Sarick said. “There is a lot of work but everyone is really excited. It’s an exciting project. These days, for us to have lots of work, and lots of exciting work to shape the future of the village, is a great thing.”

Since the Town Center opened, the space that Forster is taking over has been Pour La France, then Wildcat Café, then Spencer’s, then Village Tavern, then Mountain Bayou and back to Village Tavern, according to a town officials.

Taster’s, which opened in Snowmass in June 2001, is one of the very few Snowmass restaurants that stayed open in some fashion during the early weeks of the pandemic and has remained open. Forster said Friday it wasn’t hard to stay open because they are primarily set up for take-out and delivery anyway.

“At the time … I was thinking about our family’s income and the employees’ income,” he said. “But then I quickly realized the locals were really appreciative to have a place to go and something open and it is nice to be a part of that.”


Steadman Clinic in talks with Aspen Valley Hospital about absorbing OrthoAspen

Aspen Valley Hospital is in formal discussions with The Steadman Clinic about the renowned orthopedic care provider absorbing OrthoAspen into its operations, AVH officials confirmed Sunday.

According to Dave Ressler, CEO of Aspen Valley Hospital, discussion of this transition began early this year (pre-COVID-19) but took a more formal hold after AVH recently signed a letter of intent with The Steadman Clinic, starting negotiations on the specifics of making the clinic the leading orthopedic provider for the community and how AVH would work in partnership with them as a result.

Ressler said AVH notified its OrthoAspen employees Friday of the planned transition, which he referred to as a beneficial move for the Aspen-area community.

“Early this year we started talking about what (it) might look like if we worked together for the benefit of the patients we serve in our community,” Ressler said of The Steadman Clinic, which is known worldwide for its orthopedic services, research and work with professional athletes, “treating Team USA and the athlete in all of us,” according to its website.

“We saw a lot of advantages to our ability to provide orthopedic care over here by working in closer partnership with them.”

In 2018, The Steadman Clinic purchased a parcel of land in the Willits area to house a new orthopedic clinic, which is still in the works. The clinic currently has locations in Vail, Frisco and Edwards.

And when considering the facts that The Steadman Clinic is looking to expand into the Roaring Fork Valley and has a lot of similarities to OrthoAspen — which offers a broad range of orthopedic services in both Aspen and Basalt — Ressler said AVH thought it’d make more sense for the two health care providers to create a “strategic partnership” versus operate as separate entities.

“We’re working to avoid redundancy, so it doesn’t really make sense to have two different practices operating at the same time,” Ressler said. “So, yes, we have talked about there only being one practice which would obviously be The Steadman Clinic. … We thought we could ultimately come out with a better product for our community by working in partnership with them.”

Dan Drawbaugh, CEO of The Steadman Clinic and Steadman Philippon Research Institute, expressed similar thoughts to Ressler, noting how he thinks the partnership will be transformational for the region.

“We are extremely excited about bringing The Steadman Clinic’s world-class, evidence-based medicine to the Roaring Fork Valley community,” Drawbaugh said in a prepared statement. “Through The Steadman Philippon Research Institute, we will also deliver cutting-edge research and educational opportunities with a focus on sports performance as well as improving the aging process. We look forward to providing further updates in the months to come.”

Ressler emphasized that the specifics of this partnership is what AVH and The Steadman Clinic intend to work through in the next few months, hoping to have a definitive agreement by late summer and to make the full transition by end of 2020. It is unclear what future staffing at the clinic will look like, Ressler said.

Until the transition takes place, Ressler said OrthoAspen will continue with “business as usual” amid the COVID-19 crisis, and is confident in the ability for Aspen Valley Hospital and The Steadman Clinic to form a successful partnership.

“We work closely with our neighboring hospitals to try to find inefficiencies, become more effective together, share resources, etc., that shed light on this arrangement,” Ressler said. “We think this will have value to us and our community by working closely with an organization that’s like us and just over the hill from us.”


Aspen electeds to consider outdoor commerce in parking spaces

If Aspen’s elected officials agree, downtown streets will be modified next week so parking spaces are used for restaurant seating and retail spaces to accommodate businesses that are forced to operate under social distancing public health orders due to COVID-19.

A team of city staff is recommending to City Council that it agree to modifying several streets in the downtown core so that between three and five tables take up a parking space, which would be protected by jersey barriers and other delineating features to prevent vehicle interaction.

“I think we can do something big without doing too much,” said Pete Rice, manager of the city’s engineering division who is leading the plan and will present to council on Monday.

The streets that would be modified would be changed to one-way traffic. The program, which could be for the summer and early fall, is designed around increasing economic activity for local businesses that have taken a severe hit due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Rice and his team relied heavily on the overwhelming public feedback they received on the city’s aspencommunityvoice.com platform.

Almost 750 people filled out the survey, and more than 93% support outdoor commerce.

Rice said it’s not known yet how many of the downtown core’s 682 spaces would be needed. That will be determined based on how many businesses fill out an application for a special right of way permit.

Full street closures are another option but Rice said he does not recommend that for a number of reasons, including that business groups and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association do not support it.

Also, because the requests so far from businesses to take to the streets are so spread out throughout town, street closures create inequity between groups.

Closing the streets also does not give balance to parking, and restaurants would like areas to continue with take-out orders, which they had been relying on since March when public health orders halted indoor dining.

Restaurants opened this week but are limited to tables 8 feet apart and 50% capacity.

Rice said if council wants to close the streets, his team is prepared to do that.

“I am trying to balance the needs a bit between the public and the business groups,” he said, adding that 15 restaurateurs have indicated they want outdoor space.

Whatever council decides, Rice and his team are ready to execute the first phase of outdoor commerce.

“We can create space for restaurants and businesses starting on Tuesday,” Rice said. “My thoughts are let’s just give them space and then do a more thoughtful approach.”

Immediate street modification for one block is estimated to be $24,000.

If council supports a more formal and perhaps long-term outdoor seating plan that includes decks with railings, or what are known as “parklettes” that are placed in the right of way, the team will begin ordering the necessary materials.

Rice estimates that each deck costs around $15,000. Estimating that four would be purchased, along with planters, striping and other roadway improvements, the total cost would be $125,000.

It would take about a month to get them ordered and assembled.

“Staff will remain flexible and adaptable for the first few weeks as adjustments may be needed to suit the needs of the individual business,” Rice wrote in a memo to council. “Safety will be a top priority as staff will continue to work with the businesses on measures that can be implemented within the activation areas.”

Rice said he plans on working on a case-by-case basis with local businesses that apply for a permit, which will be done by them turning in a form to the City Clerk’s office.

“I think this is a great opportunity to see what works,” Rice said. “My gut feeling is it will help.”


Aspen, Pitkin County business will open on ‘rolling’ basis

Each week for the next month, Pitkin County will allow a new group of businesses to open under guidelines meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19, officials said Thursday.

The schedule began Wednesday, with the opening of restaurants and lodging at 50% capacity. The next group of businesses will be allowed to open June 1, with those that follow coming each Monday in June, said Kara Silbernagel, who oversees projects for the county.

“Every week we will do these rolling openings,” she said.

The schedule for reopening, which is posted along with already available guidelines under the “COVID-19” section of Pitkin County’s website, so far looks like this:

• June 1 — Summer day camps, playgrounds, skate parks, outfitters and guides;

• June 8 — Gyms, fitness centers, recreation centers, ice rinks, places of worship;

• June 15 — Movie theaters, performance theaters, and passenger capacity on public transport will be re-evaluated;

• June 22 — Events with up to 50 people will begin to be allowed with a permit from city or county authorities.

Sector-specific guidelines will be available to businesses on the Friday before the Monday they are allowed to open, Silbernagle said. Pitkin County’s “COVID-19” website contains clickable “guidelines by sector” buttons that will provide the information.

While Pitkin County’s state-sanctioned variance allowed group sizes up to 50 people, such gatherings will only be allowed by permit from the city of Aspen or Pitkin County. Such gatherings must also file a COVID-19 safety plan with Pitkin County Public Health, said County Manager Jon Peacock.

Informal gatherings of people must still be kept to 10 or fewer, he said.

The state of Colorado granted a variance to Pitkin County last weekend allowing officials to implement their own “Roadmap to Reopening.” County public health officials and business representatives have been coming up with the sector-specific opening guidelines, Silbernagel said.

The continued easing of public health order restrictions is contingent on a commitment by both residents and visitors alike to continue to make efforts to prevent spread of the virus, Peacock said.

That includes practicing good hygiene, observing social distancing protocols, wearing facemasks inside all publicly-accessible buildings and outside when within 6 feet of people for more than 10 minutes, he said. In addition, those with COVID-19 symptoms must isolate themselves, contact their doctor immediately and go to Aspen Valley Hospital to be tested, Peacock said.