Pueblo small businesses hit hard by COVID-19 pandemic, working to rebound

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Posted at 8:36 PM, Dec 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-04 22:38:39-05

PUEBLO — It's been two weeks since the Level Red restrictions went into place in Pueblo County, and small businesses definitely feeling the impact. Some having to make major changes to keep their doors open.

Sunset Inn Bar and Grill has been a pillar in the Pueblo community for almost four decades. Owners Chuck and Gerda Chavez making it into the business it is today.

"There's the old sunset, then there's the house in the back. So we had to tear all of that down and build onto this," said Gerda Chavez.

Famous for its version of the "slopper," the small business made themselves a household name. With new restrictions prohibiting indoor dining and 8 p.m. last call, they've been struggling to stay afloat.

"It's been horrible, really horrible. Our business just went into a nosedive which is horrible so instead of making three or four thousand dollars, we make three or four hundred dollars a day. It just does not cut it," said Chavez.

They've had to shut down three times during the pandemic, one time after eleven family members contracted the virus.

"Not everyone came down with it at the same time, it started with one of my granddaughters and one of my grandsons then my son-in-law then my other son-in-law got it. My other granddaughter got it, my great-grandkids got, I got it. It was horrible," said Chavez.

The pandemic having a huge impact on their family, even forcing Chavez to lay them off. But they're still rallying behind her, coming in to take to-go orders and wait tables.

"This is a family-owned business and they need everybody. As you can see they're short-staffed because they can't afford to everyone as they did before," said Leslie Chavez. "Everyone is coming in to help, we're waiting on one more cousin to come in and help. That's the maximum load for right now as far as employees go."

Chavez says the second wave has been the worse, especially with less community support because of financial challenges. Those coming out to eat say while they're struggling themselves, they still wanted to show their support for small businesses during such a tough time.

"We're coming out, even if we have to take our food and eat it in the car. We're supporting local businesses to support the whole community," said Laurel Anne Reider.

With no indoor dining at the moment, Chavez has invested in heaters for the colder days and plans to talk with the city about expanding the patio.

Heather Graham, Owner of Graham's Grill and Ruby's, says since the new restrictions were implemented, her businesses have also taken a huge hit.

"Right now, we're doing to-go orders and outdoor dining but it's difficult in the middle of winter. Today we had a nice day so that's helpful," said Graham.

She also says this time around is much worst, especially since the community can't offer much support right now.

"This time is much worse than last time and I think it's because we are a few weeks out from Christmas and instead of people spending their money in here, they're saving it for Christmas presents or to put food on the table," said Graham.

Despite the quick move to red on the COVID-19 dial, they've prepared and are working to keep as many employees as possible.

"I've laid off a ton of people, and I've cut hours for people that used to work six days a week down to two or three days. They're hanging in there with us," said Graham.

She hopes the pandemic improves in the next few weeks for her to have indoor dining and bring more employees back into work.