COLORADO SPRINGS — On Tuesday, Governor Polis cited his order to move last call from 2 a.m. to 10 p.m. as a “short-term public health necessity,” in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 at places serving alcohol.
But for small, neighborhood bars, staff say the order doesn’t make sense for them, and hurts their business more than it can help slow the spread.
“I think he doesn’t realize the damage he’s doing to small businesses that are just trying to hold on,” Bartender Nancy Nelson said.
Nelson has been bar-tending at Rilea’s Pub in Colorado Springs off and on for over a decade. And bar-tending runs in her family
“My mother was a bartender,” Nelson said.
She said her regulars are like extended family.
“There’s people that don’t have family around, and that’s what we become… we become a community of people that are always together,” she said.
Rilea’s Pub, nestled in a strip mall at Vickers and Union, has been in the Rilea family for multiple generations.
“Rilea’s is 38 plus year family owned,” Nelson said.
It’s been through plenty of ups and downs. But a pandemic was an unexpected challenge.
“It’s hard to have a busy time now, because every time we start to have a busy time, there’s another regulation, there’s another rule,” she said.
They can’t host their dart league or pool tournaments.
“To other people it’s not that big a deal, but to us it’s a huge chunk of our business,” Nelson said.
She said most people bring their own darts and pool ques anyway. Nelson believes if the bar could just be allowed to start up its pool and dart tournaments again, with proper sanitizing and distancing in place, they would be less worried about their future.
To her, the governor’s order pushing last call up to 10 p.m. doesn’t make sense for quiet, laid back Rilea’s.
“I think he’s talking about nightclubs, I think he’s talking about concert halls,” Nelson said. “I think he’s talking about people where you’re jamming in a whole lot of people. We’re a small neighborhood establishment.”
And now Rilea’s is seeing the effects.
“This is a family run business, and we are treading water,” Nelson said.
The thought of what might happen if business continues at this rate is too hard for Nelson to bear.
“That would be devastating. I don’t want to think about that,” she said.
After all, at Rilea’s, they’re family.
“Again, it’s not just about the money,” Nelson said. “We’re a community. And you’re not giving us a chance.”