For one downtown business owner, the summer surge of coronavirus cases is a big reason why a group of merchants united weeks ago to request the city change laws allowing open containers of alcohol downtown and setting up parameters in which the temporary food-and-drink court will operate.
“I feel like this is why we were so passionate about making this happen was the risk this would carry on,” said Luna’s Taco & Tequila co-owner Brian Seifried. “We all hope we’re approaching the tail end. But there’s a risk we’re in this for the long haul, and our collective reasoning is this gives us a safe option of promoting and utilizing the plaza.”
Under the newly passed ordinance, the 8th and 9th Street plazas between 8th and 9th Avenues will be transformed into an outdoor food-and-drink-court setting closed to vehicular traffic. The ordinance was passed unanimously by the Greeley City Council June 23 and extends through Sept. 12.
The ordinance went into effect at 11 a.m. Wednesday, and the food-and-drink court will be open 11 a.m. to midnight Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday.
Greeley mayor John Gates said Tuesday that, despite a recurrence of cases of COVID-19 elsewhere in the country, there were no conversations among city officials and business owners on delaying the opening.
“We’ll monitor that,” the mayor said of COVID-19. “The restaurants are exercising a lot of caution with regard to the virus, but we’ll roll with new parameters. We’ll adapt to any changes.”
In the U.S., data from Johns Hopkins shows the virus is again on the upswing after hitting a low last month with an average of just over 19,000 new cases a day. The current trend has raised that number to more than 44,000 new cases per day.
Cases are climbing in states such as Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Nevada and Utah.
Gates’ focus is on Colorado, where consecutive weeks of an increased number of cases prompted Gov. Jared Polis earlier this week to reverse course and order the closure of bars and nightclubs after giving the go-ahead for those establishments to reopen with limited capacity June 19.
Gates said he’s specifically concerned with data on hospital visits locally, and those numbers are regularly updated by city emergency manager Dan Frazen.
“The very last thing we want to do is inundate the hospitals, and they look really good,” Gates said. “What I specifically look at are hospital numbers and people on ventilators. We’ll continue to watch those. We feel good, but we’re not going to be naive. We might have a surge here. We’ll pay close attention.”
Isabelle Wolfe, an assistant manager at Doug’s Diner on 9th Street, said she’s concerned about any increase in cases — for herself and for her family. Wolfe added as a professional in the restaurant industry she and her colleagues are used to following procedures and protocol for public safety: washing hands and cleaning are regular practices.
Wolfe said Wednesday afternoon a few people were visible in the plaza as the day drifted toward the diner’s mid-afternoon closing time. Wolfe said she hopes people will be more inclined to visit the area as the holiday weekend approaches.
“I think it’s a very serious thing and we’re taking precautions as much as we can,” Wolfe said. “I’m crossing my fingers and I hope everything turns out OK.”
Greeley Tribune reporter Cuyler Meade contributed to this story.