Telluride Town Council suspended open container laws specific to certain areas of town, including the swath of town right of way on West Pacific Avenue between There bar and the Viking condominiums parking lot. (Image courtesy of the Town of Telluride)

Telluride Town Council has suspended town’s open container laws, but only within its new communal dining areas on Colorado Avenue, the north and south sides of the Oak Street (Elks Park) and Spruce Street pocket parks, and a swath of town-owned land located along the one-way portion of West Pacific Avenue between There bar and the Viking condominiums parking lot.

Town attorney Kevin Geiger reminded council and the public at Tuesday’s meeting that the suspension of open container laws applied only to to-go alcoholic beverages purchased at restaurants that offer that option.

“This is not a BYO option,” he said, explaining that patrons cannot purchase from a liquor store and consume in a communal dining area.

To-go drinks must also be accompanied by the purchase of food, and beverages much be sealed and properly labeled with stickers available from the state. The new ordinance comes on the heels of an executive order from Gov. Jared Polis’ office, which was issued last week and requires local jurisdictions to enact companion legislation if lifting those laws is desired. Without that executive order, it would have been impossible to lift town’s open container laws.

“We could not do this on our own,” Geiger explained. “If the executive order expires, ours will, too.”

Council once again turned to local law enforcement to gauge how the suspension of open container laws would affect the Telluride Marshal’s Department. Sgt. Rick Howell told council his officers were taking an educational approach on any number of new laws passed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health orders aimed at public safety and limiting the potential for infection from the virus. Howell assured council the department would take the latest new measure in stride.

“It’s going to be work,” Howell said. “But it’s nothing that we can’t do. We’re looking at this as in lieu of festivals. … I don’t see any significant issues.”

The open container law suspension will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, and will sunset Oct. 30, unless the state rescinds it executive order.

Council, which has been meeting weekly since mid-March, has enacted a number of measures that seek to aid local businesses as they navigate a summer with fewer tourists, limited lodging and festivals that have been canceled. Creating the communal dining areas on Colorado Avenue and allowing side street restaurants to avail themselves of public right of ways to offer expanded outdoor dining were devised to help shore up commerce.

But not all are happy about the arrangement. A few business owners on the south side of Colorado Avenue viewed the current configuration (one-way eastbound traffic on Colorado Avenue, with communal dining areas set up on the north side/westbound land) as “unfair” in the words of one restaurant owner. Another business owner accused town staff of setting up “roadblocks” on the way to applying for permission to use town right of ways and establishing outdoor dining agreements, an allegation that saw town manager Ross Herzog and council members defend staff. Herzog, in his report to council, noted that there have been numerous applications to process.

“The clerk’s and town manager’s office received a significant increase for … off-Colorado Avenue outdoor dining agreements, and we have also started accepting applications for off-Colorado retail/non-restaurant businesses,” Herzog explained in his memo to council. “Staff is meeting regularly to assist in preparing processes and working with establishments to finalize approval.”

Herzog also shared heartening news on the town’s financial front. Sales tax revenues for April, he told council, were “pretty consistent with 2019” figures, with collections registering at $256,954. That number is only $2,000 down from 2019. Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT) collections were also fairly robust, Herzog reported, with approximately $3.85 million coming in through May, just slightly less than budgeted projections for the year.

Telluride Town Council will have its first week off since mid-March next Tuesday, and will next convene at its regular meeting June 30.