Service industry workers protest restaurant restrictions in march on Breckenridge Main Street
BRECKENRIDGE — A stream of service industry workers marched Monday down Main Street in Breckenridge to protest COVID-19 restrictions in Summit County, particularly those that closed indoor dining, resulting in reduced hours and pay along with uncertainty for workers.
The Breckenridge Police Department helped to close off part of Main Street, and the group chanted, “Let us work,” “All or nothing” and “We have bills too” while waving signs that said things such as “How far is too far?” and “We want to work.”
The group was made up of Summit County workers who expressed frustration about the variances in the restrictions by industry, citing the indoor dining closure while other industries — like retail, lodging and skiing — have been able to stay open.
Alexandra Cooper, who works at Myla Rose Saloon and has a child in elementary school, was upset about the impact of the restrictions on her life as well as the effect on small businesses and other locals.
“Schools are shut down,” Cooper said. “I can’t even go see my therapist because offices are shut down. My work closed — which is my livelihood — but tourists are flooding in, and it’s not OK. If you’re going to close everything else down … and then let tourists come in to short-term rentals and let Vail (Resorts) stay open … it just seems incredibly unfair.”
Event organizer Savannah Wahaus, who works at The Uptown on Main and Yo Mommas Cantina, said she has been personally affected by the restrictions. Working at The Uptown on Main was her full-time job, but now she has only one shift on her schedule next week.
“My purpose is to put a face to all of the people that are being put out of work by this new, mandated shutdown of the county and the state,” Wahaus said Sunday. “So I want to show all the people that are worried about not working, that want to work and that kind of feel left in the dark with all this.”
Wahaus shared concerns that there is no plan in place to help workers negatively affected by the restrictions. While workers were able to receive unemployment benefits during the shutdown in March, Wahaus said some people have used up their unemployment benefits and might not be able to receive unemployment if they are out of work again.
Wahaus said she feels the restaurant industry has been singled out and blamed despite doing everything it can to follow safety rules and stay open.
Walking down Main Street, Nicodemus Piazzo, one of the organizers of the event and an employee at Downstairs at Eric’s, said the protest was meant to stand up against what he called the unfair shutdown of indoor dining at restaurants.
“Restaurant workers have been the people out here enforcing masks the most, party sizes the most,” Piazzo said. “We’ve followed all these rules, and then we’re the ones still getting left in the dark without a clear plan ahead. So we’re not protesting the virus. We’re not protesting shutdowns in general. We’re just protesting this halfsy one that only affects indoor dining. …”
Piazzo said he has had four friends move out of town because of the restrictions, which he said are not the right solution.
Luke Ahrenholtz stood at the protest with a sign that said, “No dough means no dough.” Ahrenholtz works as a dishwasher at a restaurant in Frisco and said he understands that the state is trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus but that there are businesses that have been following the restrictions already set in place.
“Every single day I go in, I wear the mask. I make sure I keep my hands washed. I wear the gloves,” Ahrenholtz said. “We’re doing everything right, so the fact that we keep getting shut down on the state level, I think, is what’s really frustrating. I’d like it if the local government here was able to determine can we be open (and) at what capacity.”
Adrian Holcomb, who owns Rocky Mountain Tattoo Emporium, said he came to the protest because he had to do something to save the town. Holcomb said there won’t be a town left to reopen if current restrictions stay in place.
“Some of us barely survived the first lockdown, and another lockdown might be enough to wipe us out all the way,” Holcomb said.
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