The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local economies has become a major story of the summer as businesses deal with challenges ranging from constantly-changing regulations to capacity limits to consumers own reluctance.
But in Golden, businesses are also dealing with a more local problem that has made those challenges even worse: a lack of the thousands of tourists who usually flock to the Coors Brewery every year to tour the home of the “taste as cold as the Rockies.”
Coors has not been offering public tours since mid-March, when it first posted the following a message on its website announcing that tours were being put on hold in response to public health guidance instructing that large gatherings be limited.
Martin Maloney, Coors' manager of media relations, said tours remain closed based on guidance from officials.
"We will continue to assess and reopen only when it is safe for our employees and the general public," Maloney said in an emailed statement. "We realize this is disappointing for many, and we apologize for any disruption it may cause."
Dean and Aimee Valdez, who purchased the iconic Old Capitol Grill and Smokehouse three years ago, said that restaurant has been “impacted significantly by both the lack of tourists in general and the lack of tourists coming from Coors specifically.”
“Since we opened three years ago in May we do see a nice bump in our business in the summer when all those folks come into town after doing that tour and are looking to shop and eat,” Aimee Valdez said. “So, it’s really a nice staple of our business and we certainly have missed that this summer.”
According to Dean Valdez, business at the Old Capitol Grill and Smokehouse is down “50% from last summer with some days worse than that.” Although he can’t say for sure how much of the downturn can be attributed to the lack of tours specifically, he said he has determined they play a significant role because business is historically down on any day when tours are not offered.
Other business owners are also feeling the pain. Donna Owen, the owner of downtown mainstay Avenue Gifts, told the Transcript earlier in August that she is closing her business largely because of the recent drop in tourism, with the loss of the tours being a significant part of that.
According to the city’s official tourism website, visitgolden.com, the brewery tours typically attract around 300,000 visitors to Golden each year.
Not having those tours has created a different situation for the community and one that puts more pressure on affected businesses to find other types of customers, be they visitors or locals, said Golden’s Community and Economic Development Director Steve Glueck.
However, Glueck said the actual impact of the lack of Coors tours versus other more general COVID-related challenges on businesses is difficult to determine. Furthermore, even if Coors were offering tours, Glueck said it is likely that the number of people taking the tours would be greatly reduced as many people remain leery of traveling and participating in activities like tours even where they are available.
While Glueck said the community does not have any current data about the economic impact of the loss of the tours, he said it is something the city is preparing to study. As Golden continues to deal with a general drop in tourism, there will also be a longer-term analysis of whether the economy should be more focused on people who live locally rather than visitors.
Dean Valdez said that while he is certainly supportive of efforts to increase local patronage of businesses like his, particularly during the pandemic, he feels that Golden’s local population will never be able to match the economic impact made by visitors, particularly during the summer months.
That’s why he is hoping Coors finds a way to resume the tours soon, even if special safety accommodations will surely need to be made.
“I wish they would figure out a way with mask and social distancing requirements and plexiglass and things that would still enable people to enjoy the tour and then enjoy a beer at the end just like they enjoy a beer at our bar,” Dean said. “Because it’s just such a strong attraction.”
In the meantime, however, Dean and Aimee said they are focused on doing what they can to make sure their business survives until life returns to normal and activities such a as the tours resume.
“I will be celebrating the day they announce they are bringing the tours back because that will be helpful for everybody,” Dean Valdez said.
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