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How to interpret the mixed messages in Colorado's economy

Patrons at Banded Oak Brewing Enjoying the Sunshine
Posted at 9:46 AM, Mar 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 11:46:32-04

DENVER — For the bartenders at Banded Oak Brewing, the forecast is looking up. On Monday, sunny skies and warm weather brought lots of patrons to the bar. With COVID-19 restrictions easing and the weather getting warmer, the economic picture is better than it has been in years.

"We are coming out of winter, and spring is right around the corner. It's a really nice day today. So around this time, every year, we do kind of see things pick up a little bit," said Valarie Mull, a bartender at Banded Oak Brewing. "I think there is a nice, bright, hopeful attitude where people do want to prioritize getting out and having a beer with their friends and really finding that sense of community connection for people."

Colorado's unemployment rate has fallen to 4.1%, a number not seen since before the pandemic. Many of the new jobs have posted higher wages as employees demand more from companies.

"We're starting to see stability related to COVID, which is great. But then all of a sudden, we rolled into this problem in Eastern Europe," said Jack Buffington, the program director of the Supply Chain Management Program at the University of Denver.

Price increases are not new to Colorado's economy. Banded Oak was forced to raise the prices of its beer by roughly $0.50 per serving to accommodate the inflation.

"We're small and we don't distribute. So it's very transparent what we are able to create at what cost and then we do have to pass some of that on," said Mull. "We tried to mitigate that as much as we can on the backside for as long as we knew that prices were increasing."

Managers at Banded Oak say they have several strengths that helped them through the pandemic including small batches of beer and a new outdoor seating option. They say their best asset, however, is a customer base that keeps coming back for more. An asset they will continue to invest in for years to come.

"We like to keep it very chill low key, just a welcoming spot for people to come by," said Mull. "We want to prioritize this just being like a neighborhood hub for people to come hang out and enjoy themselves."