In an effort to help bars and restaurants in the winter during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town of Mountain Village and Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association announced a plan to place refurbished gondola carts in the plazas for patrons. (Courtesy image)

As communities across the country have pivoted countless times this year to respond locally to the widespread effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town of Mountain Village and Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association (TMVOA) are partnering to offer a unique solution to help support restaurants this winter.

At their respective monthly regular meetings last week, both the Mountain Village Town Council and the TMVOA Board of Directors approved to split funding to install private dining cabins made from refurbished gondola cars and yurts on Mountain Village’s plazas in an effort to offer guests and residents space to socially distance while still patronizing Mountain Village’s restaurants and bars, according to a town news release. The town is also currently pursuing various grant opportunities from the state to contribute toward this effort.

The winter enhancement plans will also assist Mountain Village restaurants with the rental of temporary weatherproof structures to be placed within current dining patios adjacent to restaurants and offer matching grant funds for outdoor heating elements to further support outside dining.

“Outside dining areas will be more important this winter than ever as public health requirements are expected to continue to limit indoor capacities,” said Zoe Dohnal, Mountain Village business development and sustainability director. “Everyone involved has worked hard to build a strong combination of COVID-19 mitigation strategies for our businesses. We are excited about the unique and inviting ambiance these elements will bring to our village center this winter and years to come.”

The project was born from the Mountain Village Business Development Advisory Committee (BDAC) that began meeting weekly this spring to assist businesses as they adapted to new COVID-19 public health restrictions. BDAC is comprised of town staff, town council members, and representatives from TMVOA and the Mountain Village business community.

Funding was initially approved to expand seating throughout Heritage Plaza, Village Pond Plaza and Sunset Plaza, and install umbrellas and lighting to enhance the outdoor dining experience for summer guests. The work was welcomed and applauded by locals, guests and businesses alike.

This winter, some of that furniture will be used, along with up to 20  refurbished gondola cabins, with tables that provide covered seating for up to eight associated people and a variety of larger weatherproof structures throughout the Village Center that can fit up to 24 patrons. The installments will include lighting, heating and ventilation.

“BDAC is thrilled that our work to encourage safety and enhance the winter season has received such positive response,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Dan Caton, who also chairs the BDAC. “Beginning in July, the team spent hundreds of hours seeking and reviewing creative ideas for the winter. Additionally, these COVID-appropriate solutions will be enhancements to the Village Center for years to come and can be used in a variety of ways in both winter and summer in the future.”

Mountain Village staff has already contacted businesses that qualify, and the deadline to apply for the temporary structure rental program is Friday.

BDAC has allocated $70,000 to match 50 percent of funds, up to $7,000 to help qualified businesses purchase outdoor heating equipment. The deadline to apply is Dec. 1 or until funds are exhausted.

Qualifying businesses must be street-level restaurants in the Village Center or Market Plaza that already have an active plaza license agreement and have 25 or fewer full-time employees.

“TMVOA is excited about our continued partnership with the Town of Mountain Village to build upon the Village Center Plaza enhancements put into place this summer,” TMVOA’s Director of Operations & Finance Garrett Brafford said. “As we plan for the winter season, these BDAC recommended initiatives will support local businesses and heighten our residents’ and guests’ experiences.”

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