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Cripple Creek businesses impacted by casino closures

Sign outside of Wildwood Casino in Cripple Creek.
Posted at 10:20 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 00:50:56-04

CRIPPLE CREEK — Casinos across Colorado are temporarily shut down and for the towns who depend on them it's a major financial blow.

Cripple Creek is one of those towns and News 5 spoke with some of the small businesses there to find out how they're handling things.

With casinos and tourism being the biggest sources of revenue for Cripple Creek and with a lot less foot traffic right now locals say it's a scary time.

Heather Piotrowski, an employee at Pioneer Pizza, said, "It's just been quiet. It's almost a little eerie some days."

That's because the town's major moneymakers and the crowds that come with them are at a standstill.

She said, "We're so used to, especially starting this time of year, having people from all over the country coming up here because the casinos are a great attraction...we're such a small community and we really count on the casino business."

Chris Hazlett, owner of Ralf's Break Room, said, "I think it's going to cost our city maybe a million dollars off their budget."

Despite the slowdown in Cripple Creek, Piotrowski says things are going well at the pizza place.

"I think for the time of the year it's definitely picked up...we don't have as many grocery stores as some of the other towns so...when you just have two places to shop there's only so much you want to cook and eat."

Hazlett said, "I think we're holding our own up here. It's definitely not as much business as we're used to at this time of year, maybe as bad as half...unfortunately, I had to lay off my whole staff and I fully expect to rehire them at some point."

Even with the challenges he says they're still able to offer a lot of takeout and delivery. While Ralf's traditionally serves bar food Hazlett is mixing things up and taking advantage of his wife's talent.

He said, "Her Vietnamese specials have just been knocking people out up here."

With support from the community he said, "We're doing the best we can up here."

For him and so many others in Cripple Creek it's a time of uncertainty, but they're still holding on to the hope that their small town will once again come alive.

Hazlett said, "We'll get over this and Cripple Creek not only is going to rebound, it's going to come back very strong I think."

Casinos may be shut down right now, but we're told regulators are still preparing for a May 1 launch of online and retail sports betting.

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