Armstrong owns Aurum in Breckenridge and will be one of many restaurant owners applying for the relief, which covers up to $5,000 in rent or mortgage relief for those who qualify. Summit County has also secured another round of relief for businesses and non-profits in the community.
“I do feel much more supported in Summit County and really feel like what they’re doing is proactive,” said Armstrong.
The Town of Breckenridge has awarded $500,000 in rent and mortgage relief for restaurants. That, along with an additional $500,000 for employee rental assistance, dedicated to workers who have been laid off, furloughed, or seen a reduction in hours.
“This is the second round of funding that the town of Breckenridge has allocated specifically for restaurants which is incredible, and I can’t say enough for the town of Breckenridge versus my restaurants in Steamboat,” said Phillips Armstrong, founder of Destination Hospitality, “I think both communities have empathy, but the town Breckenridge actually has a plan and dollars that are real dollars, that are being allocated so it’s honestly a breath of fresh air.”
While Armstrong was pleased with the solutions brought forward, he is still overwhelmed at with the growing restrictions, ultimately resulting in the closure of indoor dining. He believes restaurants are being singled out.
“We didn’t have outbreaks. To my knowledge, we weren’t the source of outbreaks or community spread. What’s sort of mind boggling right now is that these resort communities are packed. The hotels are full, the retail is open, the spas are open, the ski resorts are open, but no one can eat in a restaurant,” he said.
At Aurum in Breckenridge, Armstrong relies on to-go food, and can still serve people inside of the two yurts in the front of the property; both booked solid for the near future.
“Outdoor dining that’s indoor, but only outside is still allowed… which again, it’s like, I’m not really understanding that,” he said.
Like many in Summit County, Armstrong is confident he can open safely and while the stimulus helps, it won’t be enough to fully recover from what he’s already lost.
“We’ve laid off probably 100 people at the Table 79 restaurant and the Aurum restaurants, we’ve delayed the opening of the Periodic Table restaurants.”
Armstrong is grateful but knows restaurants will need a lot more help down the road.
“I feel like Thanksgiving hasn’t been a thing, it’s been all of us trying to fight for the industry at the moment, Bobby Stuckey obviously leading that charge not only on the Colorado stage but on a national stage.”
Bobby Stuckey is the co-founder of the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC) and co-founder of the Frasca Hospitality Group. He’s been busy trying to garner support for the Restaurants Act, a bill that would create $120 billion in federal support for the restaurant industry.
“I know that sounds like a lot of money, it is but it’s a lot of jobs at stake to put it into perspective, we’re 12 times the size of the airline industry,” said Stuckey.
Stuckey believes those in the industry need to stop focusing on re-opening. Many states, he says, right or wrong, use the Stanford Study as a guide for how the virus spreads which sites restaurants as high risk for transmission.
“So I think what we need to stop doing is being upset about being closed, we need to focus… single laser focus, on a federal package to pull lever to support this industry,” he continued, “Let’s really focus on what is possible on the federal level to get the largest private sector job creator in the country stable.”
A study from Independent Restaurant Coalition predicted that without federal funding, 2/3 of all independent restaurants would close by February.
“This is a massive problem you take restaurants and close them and all those jobs… the state of Colorado can’t cure that on its own and so we’ve got to stop bickering, should restaurants be open or not. No, we’ve got to laser focus on getting a bill passed and it has to be on the federal level. The state level won’t be able to pull it off,” said Stuckey.
Stuckey has support for the Restaurants Act in the House and is talking with Senators across the country, hoping to see it go to vote on the Senate floor.
“There’s not a schedule for it to go to the floor currently, but it needs to happen. Every two weeks is another payroll cycle and small restaurant businesses will close and there will not be a safety net for any of those employees. It’s a really scary situation and the Senate needs to stop being political and start being leaders,” he said.
Armstrong understands Stuckey’s argument but still believes restaurants deserve to operate as they have been.
“If you’re going to shut it down, shut it down, but if you’re going to have hotels at 100% occupancy retail people in the streets, spas, like everything is operating except for restaurants… that seems like you better have really definitive science that shows that, and I have not seen that yet.”
For restaurants in Breckenridge interested in applying for relief, the online application form will be available on the Town’s website Monday, Nov. 30.
Relief for employees will be managed through the Family Intercultural Resource Center. The funding will go towards workers who have been laid off, furloughed, or seen a significant reduction in work hours, regardless of industry. The Family Intercultural Resource Center can also assist employees in navigating unemployment, healthcare benefits, and food assistance. More details are forthcoming regarding the program. In the meantime, workers are encouraged to visit www.summitfirc.org to learn more. The Town will also dedicate funding to childcare centers and their families.