Local businesses begin to reopen

By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

Note: After this story had gone to press, Jeff Greer of The Overlook Hot Springs was notified that he would not be able to reopen his business until May 23.

Amid Gov. Jared Polis’ Safer at Home guidelines, businesses are reopening around Pagosa Springs.

Safer at Home allowed retail and personal services to open May 1 and noncritical offices to open May 4 if practicing social distancing and safety guidelines.

Businesses deemed “essential” have been permitted to operate, with guidelines, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, one local business that is not reopening is Wolf Creek Ski Area.

Last week, the ski area submitted a variance request to the Silver Thread Public Health Department, which was granted and sent to the state health department for final approval.

The Mineral County commissioners also approved the ski area’s reopening plan, and the local hospital and fire department that serve the ski area wrote letters saying they have the capacity to handle any increased calls as a result of the reopening.

Wolf Creek Ski Area President and CEO Davey Pitcher learned Thursday night that Polis extended his executive order, closing all ski areas in the state until May 23.

“It’s a blow to freedom,” Pitcher told The SUN Tuesday. “It’s disappointing given the fact that a lot of other businesses are being allowed to open throughout the state.”

Pitcher said the reopening “would have been good for the community and healthy to see that things can come back to some sense of normalcy without spreading COVID,” noting the ski area’s reopening plan has detailed policies to ensure social distancing and safe practices amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pagosa businesses

Locally, many businesses that have been shuttered the past six weeks or so are opening or planning to reopen soon.

The Springs Resort and Spa will reopen to hotel guests only on May 8.

David Dronet, managing principal of The Springs Resort, explained that management wanted to open the springs to the general public on May 8, but got pushback from the local health department.

“We got a call yesterday from the San Juan Basin health group and even though the state has made it clear that we can open, the San Juan health group is saying they don’t want us to. They said their interpretation is we can’t open the bath house,” said Dronet, who noted that San Juan Basin Public Health “is doing a lot” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve talked to a few locals who have expressed frustration. Initially it was, ‘Hey that’s messed up, why aren’t you guys opening to us?’ and we had to kind of clarify, ‘Hey it’s not our fault.”

The Springs is implementing the following safety practices:

• Springs staff and soaking guests will be required to wear masks at all times.

• Maximum numbers of soakers allowed in each of the 24 pools will be posted.

• Strict social distancing measures will be enforced.

It is unclear when The Springs will be open to the public.

The Overlook Hot Springs is planning to reopen on May 15.

In an interview Monday, owner Jeff Greer explained The Overlook will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health department guidelines and is still fine-tuning the details for the reopening.

Greer touted a new disinfectant product he’s implementing at The Overlook: MicroShield 360.

“It’s non-toxic, non-caustic, no chemicals. It’s EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] approved, even for food surfaces and what they do — It’s like electrostatically applied, and they spray it on any kind of contact surface — shower tiles, door handles, computer screens, that kinda stuff. But what it does is it forms a microscopic barrier with these tiny little microscopic needle points so when any kind of bacteria or virus or mold or any kind of bioactive stuff lands on it, it actually pierces the cell wall and because it’s positively charged, it pretty much kills all bacteria and any kind of bio agent,” Greer said.

Greer explained the product lasts about a year and predicted it will be very popular in the upcoming months.

Healing Waters Resort and Spa has not determined its reopening date.

Cindy Plate, owner of Galles Properties, explained to The SUN how the real estate climate has changed due to COVID-19.

Plate explained Realtors can do in-person showings, but no open houses and are limiting three people inside a home at a time during a showing.

Plate noted realtors are wearing masks and gloves, encouraging homeowners to have hand washing stations during showings, and realtors are not traveling in the same vehicles as prospective buyers.

Plate said Memorial Day through October is generally the busiest time for real estate around Pagosa Springs, noting that’s when the area “greens up.”

Debbie Loewen, realtor for Team Pagosa Realty Group, sent The SUN a few guidelines realtors are using in the area, which include: 

• Homes must be cleaned and disinfected between showings.

• When scheduling a showing, agents must inquire whether any household inhabitants have symptoms of COVID-19 or may have been in contact with “known positive cases.”

• Agents are required to provide gloves and masks to clients and maintain social distancing.

Daylene Rutherford, office manager for Pagosa Smiles Dentistry, explained the steps her office is taking.

“We have state-of-the-art sterilization and universal precautions that we’ve already had in effect before this all even started that’s effective against COVID and all other known viruses,” Rutherford said. “Thankfully, we have a good base to start with.”

Rutherford explained:

• The office has implemented a “virtual waiting room” where patients call in and then are brought to a private room prior to their appointment.

• Patients wear masks while they’re waiting, then have their temperature checked and gargle chlorhexidine.

“It helps kill viruses and other stuff in the mouth, too,” she said.

• Patients wear a mask the entire time they’re at the office “except when we’re working on the mouth,” she said.

Christine Jones, owner of The Funky Trunk Shoppe, explained the changes made at her consignment store amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jones noted customers must follow social distancing guidelines, but wearing a mask in the store is their choice.

All Funky Trunk employees wear face masks and the store is disinfected regularly, she reported.

“We’re happy to be back open because our mission is to provide a viable side income for women in our community,” said Jones, noting the store helped provide income for about 1,500 local women last year.

Scott Hoenes, co-owner of the downtown Bookends book store, detailed changes to his business in an email to The SUN.

“Since our space is so small, we can’t even guarantee 6 ft of space between guests, so we’re doing an appointment-only for the time being,” Hoenes wrote, adding, “We have been delivering a few things to a some of the locals, puzzles and books on order, we’re always available to deliver or ship items … It’s a tough time, I hope we all make it through.”

Lantern Dancer, a local jewelry store, won’t reopen until May 23.

Leanne Goebel, store manager, explained that extra time is needed to put all the jewelry in cases and is still working out a tricky problem: how to disinfect turquoise jewelery without damaging it.

“Turquoise is one of the softer stones. You can’t just put it in disinfectant, it will damage or destroy it,” Goebel said.

Lantern Dancer’s online store is running full-steam, she explained, and patrons can order jewelry online.

Local restaurants, many of which are providing takeout and delivery service, are not permitted to reopen for sit-down dining.

Riff Raff Brewing co-owner Jason Cox gave an update regarding restaurants in the area to The SUN in an email Tuesday.

“… we received a little bit of guidance for restaurants and bars during Governor Polis’s speech yesterday afternoon. A reporter asked Governor Polis about restaurants reopening and the governor indicated that he wanted to give ‘Safer at Home’ a couple of more weeks to help gather some more data before moving forward at the end of the month or beginning of June. He also mentioned giving a week’s notice to restaurants to allow them to rehire staff and order supplies and raw materials,” Cox wrote.


This story was posted on May 13, 2020.