Businesses awarded $1.2M in grants from Pitkin County
Nearly 100 locally owned businesses negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have been awarded more than $1.2 million in grants from Pitkin County, an official said this week.
The first round of checks has been sent out, with the remaining money set to be sent out in the coming weeks, said Jon Peacock, Pitkin County manager.
“Often times the larger grants were going to restaurants, who just because of the nature of their business … have sustained more impact,” Peacock told Pitkin County commissioners earlier this week.
The Aspen Community Foundation screened the 129 applications submitted for the program, and awarded between $5,000 and $25,000 to 99 of those businesses during three rounds of review, he said. A total of $1,254,000 has been or will be doled out to those businesses, for an average of $12,667 per business, Peacock said.
“I’m very grateful,” said Mawa McQueen, owner of Mawa’s Kitchen at the Aspen Business Center, which received $25,000. “Now, instead of being four months late (on rent), I’m only a month late. Now I don’t have to close in the offseason.”
Eleven local businesses — nine of them restaurants — received the maximum $25,000, according to a list of the grants. However, retail businesses, personal services and a couple nonprofits that rely on transactions, like Aspen Gymnastics, also received a piece of the pie, Peacock said.
The 11 local businesses that received the maximum $25,000 grant from Pitkin County:
7908 Aspen; Acquolina; Base Camp Bar and Grill; Corporate Transportation Specialists Inc.; Epicure Catering; Explore Booksellers; Highlands Alehouse; Jimmy’s; L’Hostaria Ristorante; Mawa’s Kitchen; and Mi Chola.
In order to be eligible for the grant program, the business must be locally owned and not part of a national or international chain. In addition, the business must have had a safety plan on file the with the county’s public health department, have no closures or notices of violation related to public health orders and must have been able to demonstrate the impact of the pandemic.
The money Pitkin County put up for the grant program came from about $4.3 million in federal CARES Act dollars the county received and shared with the city of Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt and the Aspen Ambulance District.
“The grants were really helpful,” said Adam Malmgren, co-owner and general manager of Mi Chola, which received $25,000 from Pitkin County. “The most important thing was to keep all my staff working. Nothing’s a drop in the bucket in situations like this.”
Wendy Harris, owner of the New Belgium Ranger Station at the Snowmass Village Mall, said she spent the $15,000 she received from Pitkin County on improvements to the business’ outdoor patio.
“All of that really helped us immensely because we lost March and April last year,” she said. “We’ve got expenses we’ve never seen before. But we’re keeping everybody on the payroll.”
Peacock said the county’s grant fund has about $26,000 left in case any other business wants to apply.
“I want to give a big shout out to the Aspen Community Foundation for partnering with us and taking this on,” he said. “It was a lot of grant applications to look at … and they really worked through them quickly and fairly.”
A message left Friday for an Aspen Community Foundation representative was not returned.
The 30 businesses that didn’t receive funds either didn’t meet the necessary criteria, didn’t demonstrate need or had significant public health order violations, Peacock said.
Pitkin County Board Chairwoman Kelly McNicholas Kury has been a leading voice for the grant program and said Friday she’s been advocating for it since last summer.
And while she said she knows that $25,000 is one night’s revenue for some restaurants and that the grants couldn’t come close to making up the money lost to the pandemic, she was glad the county could provide a bit of help to struggling businesses.
“I feel like one of the biggest roles of the county, of the commissioners, has been to try to mitigate the public health orders,” she said. “It’s not closing the gap (in lost revenue) but I do think it was very important for us to do that.”
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