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We’re Open: Louis Swiss Pastry

Business name: Louis Swiss Pastry

Address: 400 AABC Aspen, CO 81611

Email: Louisswisspastry@gmail.com

Web: Louisswisspastry.com

Instagram: Louis_swiss_pastry

Phone: (970) 925-8592

Aspen Times: How have you gotten creative during this time? What have you done to keep your customers engaged?

Louis Swiss Pastry: We at Louis Swiss Pastry have started to offer whole oven roasted chicken dinner deals, as well as expanded our Chicago style deep dish pizza from just one day a week (Wednesday) to now, Monday through Thursday, and burgers are still on Friday! We have offered everything from organic farm eggs to toilet paper if people really needed it (we didn’t up charge for those — we sold them at cost to us). Felix has brought more of the Milagro beef from his ranch down to the bakery as well, if people wanted to buy grass-fed beef. We also have been making wonderful loaf bread to take home!

AT: What’s the most important thing the community can do to support you?

LSP: The most important thing that can be done is come in and get some wonderful food, be it fresh bread or whole chicken or pizza, come in and get some good treats and coffee! The next thing is just let everyone know we are open, tell a friend, check Facebook/Instagram, even leave a Google review! Every little thing helps!

AT: Where can we find your most current offerings and updates?

LSP: You can check out our Instagram or the Roaring Fork swap on Facebook, as well as our website louisswisspastry.com.

AT: What has been the best customer experience or comment you’ve had since the crisis started?

LSP: There hasn’t been just one thing that stood out to us, just the overwhelming “thank you for being open” or the daily “wow you guys are open! I’m coming in!” We are more than happy to be open to help our community!

AT: Is there anything else you’d like to add regarding your business during the pandemic?

LSP: We would love to add more whole chickens or more local organic vegetables from farms around the valley to help those that have helped us. We as a community are stronger than any virus and we’d love to just get more local farms and ranchers involved.

Carbondale expands loan program, offers loans for coronavirus-affected businesses

As businesses across the nation struggle to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic crisis, Carbondale has repurposed an existing loan program to help out.

The initial idea of the Carbondale Revolving Loan Fund was to provide startup or expanding businesses with a low-interest loan of up to $25,000.

Kula Yoga, Aloha Mountain Cyclery, restaurant Silo and other Carbondale businesses have benefitted from the loan program.

“Given what’s happened, we thought it might be of use to some of these existing businesses who kind of need a bridge funding while they’re kind of closed down or severely restricted in what they could do,” said Colin Laird, loan program coordinator and director of the Third Street Center.

The loan fund started in 2002 with a $50,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture and an equal amount from the town of Carbondale.

It was Carbondale Trustee Lani Kitching’s idea to ask the USDA for approval to offer the 3% interest loans interest free, and expand the program to those suffering from the measures intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

“With the economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19, I wondered if the Town’s revolving loan fund could be repurposed from being a start-up and expansion low-interest loan fund to a distressed business gap funding option,” Kitching said in a statement.

In the nearly 18 years since the program started, there have been no defaults and the fund has grown to about $130,000, Laird said.

The application turnaround can be shorter than some of the other business loans. Laird said that an approved business could see the loan return in four to six weeks.

Many Carbondale businesses have already inquired about the loan program.

“Hopefully it can be a useful tool in addition to the things that the state and the feds are doing,” Laird said.

Small businesses across the state are eligible for the Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

Applications for the new Payroll Protection Program opened Friday. The program provides potentially forgivable loans of amounts enough to cover 2-1/2 months of payroll or $10 million, whichever is less.

Congress allocated $349 billion to the program through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES Act.

The SBA accepted thousands of applications from around the country in the first day the program was available, according to tweets from the national administrator Jovita Carranza.

The payroll protection loans are currently available to small businesses and sole proprietorships. On April 10, the loan applications will open for independent contractors and self-employers.


We’re Open: Aspen CrossFit

Business name: Aspen CrossFit

Address: 210 AABC, Suite N, Aspen

Phone: 970-948-4605

Email: info@aspencrossfit.com

Website: www.aspencrossfit.com

Instagram: @aspencrossfit

Aspen Times: How have you gotten creative during this time? What have you done to keep your customers engaged?

Aspen CrossFit: We have gotten creative in a couple of ways. We are going live every evening (except Saturday) with a live class on Instagram at 5:30 p.m. We lead the members and anyone in the community for that matter through a warmup and workout that anyone can do from their homes. Most of them don’t require any equipment. We have also loaned equipment out to our members. We are also providing workouts for people to do outdoors that follow the strict social distancing standards in place.

AT: What’s the most important thing the community can do to support you?

AC: The most important thing the community can do to support us is to tune in and keep moving! It’s really easy to become complacent and just sit around, and we want to give the community the opportunity to move for an hour and get the endorphins flowing. We thought about offering our classes on Zoom where people would need a code to tune in and we wanted it to be available to anyone in the Roaring Fork Valley who has access to Instagram. When the dust settles and we get back to a sense of normalcy, we would love to have people come join our membership at the gym. We are counting on our community to continue to support us as best as they can. Donations are gladly accepted to help us get through this unknown period of time.

AT: Where can we find your most current offerings and updates?

AC: Our home workouts come out at 7 p.m. each evening for the following day on our website www.aspencrossfit.com. The workouts are under the tab “Blog/WOD.” We also go live on Instagram at 5:30 p.m. leading the community through the same workout and it stays on our Instagram story for 24 hours until we go live with the next workout.

AT: What has been the best customer experience or comment you’ve had since the crisis started?

AC: The best comments we have had from many members is that Aspen CrossFit is a real community going above and beyond to serve our members and that everyone really misses being in the gym.

AT: Is there anything else you’d like to add regarding your business during the pandemic?

AC: We were mandated by Gov. Jared Polis to close on March 16 and we took the initiative to do so on our own the day before. It has been hard being closed and not seeing our members on a daily basis. Despite the circumstances, we are choosing to continue to pay our coaches through this crisis. We have a can-do attitude and are determined to get through this and come out stronger on the other end.

Pitkin County to launch paperless building permit application and tracking system this May

The Pitkin County Community Development department is launching a new building permit submittal and tracking software this May.

According to a county news release, the new Permit Application and Tracking System (PATS), which is powered by SagesGOV, will create a standardized, paperless permit process making information on everything from building permits to planning cases and inspection requests more readily accessible throughout the life cycle of a project.

The system also will allow for email and online communication among the general public, the development community and staff, which can result in higher-quality permit application submissions and plan review.

“This new online process will definitely improve our efficiency, and while we can’t promise that it will always speed up the approval process for more complicated permits, it will make it possible for my staff to share notes and progress reports — all within view of the public,” said Cindy Houben, Community Development director for Pitkin County.

To help local contractors and citizens ease into the new permit submittal and tracking system, Pitkin County will host remote virtual training sessions, along with one-on-one virtual training. The larger group workshops will begin the week of April 20, with the one-on-one sessions starting the following week, the news release said.

Training will run through May 11, which is when the county community development department plans to officially launch the new PATS system.

“We’re confident the new, streamlined online system will be appreciated by the community,” Houben said. “We know the process can be exasperating at times, and an improved process has been a long time coming.”

What’s the Big Deal: Aspen condo on Cooper sells for $10.2 million

“What’s the Big Deal?” runs Mondays and is based on the week’s most expensive property transaction recorded in the Pitkin County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.

Price: $10.2 million

Date recorded: March 31

Address: 700 E. Cooper Ave., Unit 1

Subdivision: Bell Mountain Residences

Buyer: Overflow Pad LLC

Seller: Craig and Lee Williams Family Partnership Ltd.

Property type: Condominium

Year built: 2000

Total heated area: 3,748 square feet

Assessor’s office actual value: $8,489,800

Assessor’s office assessed value: $607,020

Property tax bill: $21,687

Business Monday: Pitkin County sues Juul over marketing to youth

Claiming that Pitkin County “has been hit hard by the youth vaping epidemic,” a federal lawsuit filed Thursday alleges Juul Labs and other makers of electronic cigarettes and tobacco vaporizers have deliberately marketed their products to minors in the same manner Big Tobacco once did.

The Pitkin County government is using the same law firm — Phoenix-based Keller Rohrback LLP — that is suing Juul on behalf of other Colorado local governments including the city of Denver and Boulder County.

The lawsuits come as Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is investigating the company for targeting youth through marketing and advertising. And last week, a group of 39 state attorneys general announced they were investigating Juul Labs for its marketing practices; Colorado has not joined that effort as of yet.

Pitkin County raised the purchase price for tobacco from 18 to 21 in January, though it was largely symbolic after the nationwide minimum age of 21 took hold Dec. 20, after President Donald Trump signed a $1.4 trillion budget bill that amended the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Vaping rates in Colorado’s resort region that also includes Eagle, Grand, Jackson, Pitkin and Summit counties “continue to climb,” the suit said, evidenced by a surge among high school students from 20% in 2013 to 54% in 2017. As well, Colorado has the highest rate of youth vaping in the nation, the suit said.

Pitkin County’s lawsuit says Juul Labs is partly responsible for what it calls a high level of vaping among Pitkin County’s youth.

“These numbers are self-reported, and many public health officials think they likely underestimate the actual prevalence of youth vaping,” the suit said, noting that the “number of students vaping in plaintiff’s community is even higher. In plaintiff’s Aspen School District, almost 60% of high school students have tried vaping nicotine and 45% of these students used e-cigarettes in the last 30 days.”

Kids have become hooked on the product and are remorseful for starting, the suit said, noting that students as young as fifth-graders in Pitkin County reported having tried vaping.

“Pitkin County youth have also self-reported to school officials that they quickly became addicted after first trying vaping and wished they had never tried it,” the suit said.

Youth have been allured to the products through Juul’s marketing efforts on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network websites, as well as others, the suit contended.

“Middle and high schools throughout (Pitkin County’s) region report struggling to control and respond to the number of youth vaping,” the suit said. “Defendants’ products are discrete and easy to conceal, allowing students to vape in the bathroom stalls at school or even in the classroom. Plaintiff was told that some students do not feel comfortable going to the bathroom at school because there are so many students ‘juuling’ and vaping inside.”

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Denver. Other defendants include Richmond, Virginia-based Altria Group, the owner of Marlboro and a multi-billion-dollar investor in Juul Labs; New Jersey e-cigarette maker Eonsmoke; and another Altria concern, NuMark, which has suspended production of vaporizers.

Juul, based in San Francisco, could not be reached for comment, but told the website coloradopolitics.com, which first reported Pitkin County’s litigation, “We will continue to reset the vapor category in the U.S. and seek to earn the trust of society by working co-operatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes.”


Aspen to take lead on forming economic recovery task force

The city of Aspen is taking the lead on forming a valley-wide economic task force to help local businesses recover from the COVID-19 crisis that has brought the economy to its knees.

City Manager Sara Ott told Aspen City Council on Monday that the effort is in its initial stages but is gaining traction.

“I volunteered the city of Aspen to start developing a framework for this so we can bring in our locals, people who have a lot of expertise into this conversation,” she said. “Already, through the chambers and the local governments of the valley are having at least weekly recovery virtual roundtables to make sure that we have good information flow, and that we are identifying who are those that need to be brought to the table as we move forward.”

Councilwoman Ann Mullins, along with her colleagues, support the effort and have heard from business owners that they’ll need as much support as possible to weather the storm.

“The information I’m getting from the business sector that I’ve been talking to is incredibly valuable,” she said. “We’re going to have so many ideas and so many things to discuss, and so many people that are qualified to be on the task force.”

Mullins is serving as the liaison to the construction, development, real estate and professional services sectors of the local economy.

Mayor Torre is responsible for communicating with those in the restaurant, transportation and food services.

Councilman Ward Hauenstein has lodging and hospitality, Councilwoman Rachel Richards has the arts and nonprofits, and Councilman Skippy Mesirow has retail and outdoor recreation.

Having elected officials serving as liaisons is designed to support and assist small businesses with the evolving landscape surrounding COVID-19 and to create a channel of communication between the city and its many stakeholders who contribute to the economy.

“We want to do all we can as a council to share resources with the business community, hear the members’ concerns and collect the data we need as a city to help empower our recovery efforts,” he said.

Ott has assembled an economic strategy team comprising of Mitch Osur, director of parking and downtown services; Phillip Supino, director of community development; and Ron LeBlanc, special projects manager.

Mesirow during Monday’s meeting offered hope in these trying times.

“This is probably the greatest shock that any of us will live through,” he said. “Not since we devalued silver and moved to the Quiet Years has something so systemic befallen us. And that’s scary and uncertain. But it is unquestionably true that every moment of uncertainty or crisis is also a moment of emergent growth and rebirth.”


City of Aspen projecting massive revenue losses, expenditure cuts

The city of Aspen finance director is estimating a loss of almost $13 million in lodging and sales tax revenue this year due to the COVID-19 crisis, with steep declines in just about every industry in the resort community.

City Finance Director Pete Strecker’s 2020 tax projections will translate into massive cuts in capital projects and municipal services, including in public transit and parks and open space programming.

City Manager Sara Ott told Aspen City Council on Monday that 55 part-time employees have been laid off and more operational cuts are coming.

“The city needs to take action pretty quickly in its own spending to be responsible back to the community, and there’s going to be tough choices coming before the council in the future about priorities,” she said.

Strecker projects that economic weakness is expected through the summer and a slight rebound will occur in the fall and December, with a weaker opening to the 2020-21 ski season.

Strecker, who was the chief of economic forecaster for the Colorado Governor’s Office during the recession that began in 2008, told council his projections are just a snapshot in time.

“In August we’re hoping there is a (bounce back) but that’s absolutely contingent upon what the travel looks like, the travel bans, and how soon and comfortable people are moving around the country and around the world,” he said. “The overall projection at this point is that we will see softenings all the way through the year, even December, ski season, we are still down 22 percent.”

He projects a decline over last year in monthly sales tax revenue anywhere between 65% in March to the 50% reductions through the summer months and into the 30% losses in the fall.

The losses are due to the abrupt shutdown of the ski areas, restaurant and bars, lodging and all non-essential businesses through public health orders issued earlier this month to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Several events like the Aspen Food & Wine Classic and Aspen Ideas Festival have been canceled, which are major factors in Strecker’s projections.

“By industry, the hardest hit are the likely areas of high-cost items like luxury goods and automobiles, followed by additional optional areas like clothing and sporting goods,” Strecker wrote in a memo to council. “With limited and/or heightened fear of travel anticipated, accommodations will also be hit hard. A slightly muted impact would then occur at restaurants, but not as deep given local patron visits.

“The least impacted industry will be in the areas of general retail (which includes some large online retails that have been able to remain open during this time and have even seen a boost) and basic necessity retail like food and drug.”

Strecker projects a nearly $6.59 million loss in city sales tax revenue and a $4.4 million reduction in the city’s share of Pitkin County’s sales tax.

The lodging tax revenue is projected to take a hit of $1.65 million, according to Strecker.

He wrote in the memo that based on those projections, collections will be significantly reduced and will affect various city funds and leave varying options on how to weather the impact:

• Transportation: This is the area of greatest concern. Transportation has revenue from three tax streams: city sales and lodging tax, as well as indirectly from the 1.0% valley-wide transit sales tax. The aggregate impact is a $2.3 million loss among these sources, and there is then the impact of a reduced transfer from the parking fund given that there is no paid parking at this time, initially estimated at $1.5 million in lost revenue. Immediate steps, including reduction in service levels and hours, have started.

• General Fund: $3 million reduction is only the initial impact as departmental revenue from fees also will decline. With this, expenditure cuts are recommended. There is fund balance that can be utilized and there is the option to push more property tax revenue to this fund, but it will require decisions on slowing or stopping projects in the asset management plan.

• Parks and open space: $4 million reduction. Sales tax is a main source of income and as such, delaying capital projects is imperative.

• Child care/Kids First: $500,000 reduction. This fund has sufficient fund balance to delay immediate cuts but will then reduce resources to put forth on a capital expansion project in the future. There is already one position that is proposed to remain unfilled at this time (resource teacher).

• Tourism Promotion: $1.2 million reduction. This amount has been communicated to (Aspen Chamber Resort Association) to assist in prioritizing destination marketing dollars. ACRA does have close to $800,000 in reserve on its books, plus the city is holding another $300,000 in fund balance at this time.

Additional work still needs to be completed to analyze other fee-based revenue streams, property tax (though little impact is anticipated), and real estate transfer taxes (typically volatile and less detrimental in the near term if collections fall).

The city administration is already scaling back its operations and will bring forward a formalized cost-cutting package for the council to consider in the near future.

Councilman Ward Hauenstein said it is not going to be easy to tighten the city’s financial belt but it is necessary to save lives in this crisis.

“The public health orders are really designed to put an end to the spread of this contagion but in doing that, it heavily impacts businesses,” he said. “We have to be able to kill the virus, we have to kill the spread of it, but we have to be prepared for the economic recovery.”


Business Monday: Airlines lay low but still flying in and out of Aspen

Signs of a crippled airline industry are evident locally at Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, where commercial service has been reduced to a handful of daily flights with some passenger counts lower than crew sizes.

A $2 trillion economic relief package signed by President Donald Trump on Friday will bring some relief to commercial airlines, though $25 billion in grants derived from the $60 billion industry bailout requires participating carriers to keep paying their employees through the end of September. Furloughs and layoffs are not allowed under the bailout, the remaining $35 million of which will come through loans contingent on the airlines maintaining service levels to their markets.

The three commercial airlines serving Aspen have slashed local service.

American’s last flight to Dallas/Fort Worth was March 21, while that service is scheduled to return June 4, according to local travel consultant Bill Tomcich, Aspen’s liaison to the airline industry.

Delta has suspended flights to and from Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis, while the airline continues two scheduled flights daily to and from Salt Lake City. That will likely be reduced to one daily flight starting April 1, according to Tomcich.

United plans to be down to three scheduled flights daily between Aspen and Denver from April 1 to 13, though that schedule is subject to change.

For those few and far between passengers, the flights can be quiet and hassle-free.

Aspen resident Mel Ronick reported that he and his wife “were treated to a completely private nonstop flight from Aspen to San Francisco” on March 20.

“Yes, we were the only passengers on the flight,” he said. “Though it was nice, we did feel badly for United.”

For sure, it is an unprecedented challenge for the airline industry including 9/11, airline executives and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have said.

“9/11 was an extreme shock to the industry, but everything that I’ve been reading is this is way worse than 9/11 in terms of financial impact on the airlines and the industry,” Tomcich said.

Aspen tourism season was rolling through February when as many as 30 flights were offered daily, Tomcich said.

“We were coming off a very strong winter until the coronavirus broke out earlier this month,” he said. “So that is cause for optimism that the underlining fundamentals of our economy had been strong.”

When the economy rebounds is a matter of speculation, but daunting times await the airline industry if surveys are to be believed.

A recent Harris Poll found that 15% of Americans said they will fly within a month after the government says COVID-19 is waning; another 16% said they would wait to fly within three months; and another 49% said they would likely be ready at six months.

“Based on how doctors expect the virus to spread and how economists expect the global economy to react, we expect demand to remain suppressed for months after that, possibly into next year,” said United CEO Oscar Munoz and the man who will succeed him in May, United President Scott Kirby, in a message to employees last week and picked up my national media outlets. “That means being honest, fair and upfront with you: if the recovery is as slow as we fear, it means our airline and our workforce will have to be smaller than it is today.”


Marble Distilling in Carbondale makes hand sanitizer during shortage

Carbondale business Marble Distilling Co., known for infused vodkas and liquors, is branching into the hand sanitizer market to help with shortages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marble Distilling closed their tasting rooms in Carbondale and Aspen a few days before the governor ordered all restaurants and bars to close their dining areas March 17.

Bartenders and front-of-house staff moved to the back, doing deep cleans and bottling product. Then staff read an article about an Oregon distiller using their grain alcohol to make sanitizer.

“We thought, well, we could make hand sanitizer,” head distiller at Marble Connie Baker said.

The distiller started distributing the sanitizer gel last week for free to people in the community while they ramp up production.

Not normal times

Typically, compounding and selling hand sanitizer would require permits, but not during the coronavirus outbreak.

“There really aren’t a lot of regulations. In normal times, there would be a lot more,” Baker said.

On Thursday, the federal bureau announced that it would not levy an excise tax as long as the alcohol used in the hand sanitizer was denatured — a process that renders the alcohol undrinkable.

Any distiller with an existing permit can immediately produce hand sanitizer from ethanol alcohol if they follow certain guidelines, according to an order from the bureau’s acting administrator released March 18.

The lifting of the tax also helps Marble give away the hand sanitizer to anyone who needs it.

All a person has to do is go to the back of the Carbondale Marble Distilling tasting room, with their own bottle, and knock for service.

Anyone who orders a bottle of Marble spirits from the distiller’s fledgling delivery service also will get a small vial of hand sanitizer — depending on the availability of bottles.

Waiting for bottles

Baker said Marble hopes selling hand sanitizer to local retailers will help offset the lost revenue from bars and restaurants.

The “biggest hiccup” in the hand sanitizer business is finding bottles, Baker said. They have ordered bottles, but there seems to be a supply shortage there, too.

While the shift to distilling the hand sanitizer is partly about keeping the business viable, Baker also wants to provide a service.

“We’re just going to try to go into some mass production here, and see if we can make enough to keep everybody sanitized,” Baker said.

It also could help the business retain their staff.

“We’re trying to get them on the bottling line, or help with the hand sanitizer, or run deliveries just to keep them employed,” Baker said.

Every business is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 shut down, and Baker hopes to see more creative solutions.

“If we work together as a community, I truly believe we’re going to get through all of this. It’s not going to be easy, but we can help each other out in any we can.”