LEAD — Businesses in Lead will be forced to restrict operations if a new ordinance, slated to be in effect until as late as July, is approved next week.
On Monday, city officials gave its first consideration for an ordinance that will require all businesses that serve food and beverage to switch to curbside, delivery, take-out, and drive-through services. Any business that maintains dine-in services will face a penalty of a $300 fine, 30 days in jail, or both.
The new ordinance also requires all recreational facilities and theaters to cease operations, possibly until July 6.
While the majority of Lead businesses have already instituted voluntary restrictions and have switched to off-site services, City Administrator Mike Stahl and Mayor Ron Everett said at least one establishment has indicated it may resume dine-in services. That indication prompted officials to take a look at the ordinance that officially restricts business. Additionally, Stahl said the ordinance could help businesses that seek to apply for COVID-19 loans through the Small Business Administration, or file insurance claims.
“I want to thank the citizens of Lead for volunteering to shut down,” Everett said, emphasizing that the majority of Lead’s businesses complied with CDC recommendations. “It was an amazing thing to see. The president and the governor asked and the citizens of Lead stepped up. I think we do it now because it reassures the public that we are doing something and not just sitting back and letting it happen. For me, it’s the assurance that we are taking it seriously. We want this in place for the end, for when people are getting nervous and scared and say we’re going to open up.”
Though the ordinance sets July 6 as its ending date for restrictions, city commissioners said if COVID-19 and social distancing recommendations from the Department of Health change earlier than that, the restrictions can be lifted.
“It is our intention to end this as soon as we can,” Everett said.
Commissioner David Vardiman questioned whether the ordinance should apply to restaurants that are able to meet 6-foot distancing requirements.
“My observation is that there were some communities that were relaxing, large metro communities, and they’re well into the COVID-19 infection,” Vardiman said. “As long as they can meet those spatial requirements (those communities) are allowing it. They have to take extraordinary cleaning measures. Is there an opportunity here? Are we being a little too aggressive for our community?”
“It comes back to the interface of customers,” Stahl said. “They bring the food being served and that is being put in front of them. It seems like from everything we’ve heard that everybody should have done this sooner in big parts of the country and they didn’t do it, now they’re suffering.
“We were perfectly suited to have voluntary closures until we had one say they weren’t going to do it,” Stahl continued. “People come from restaurants and they go to other places and you don’t know if they have it. If they have it those symptoms don’t come up for three or four days.”
Colin Greenfield, who owns the Greenfield Pub on Main Street that closed voluntarily on March 18, said he favors the ordinance. He and his wife decided to close their business for economic and safety reasons.
“I’ve struggled with this a lot,” he said. “It was costing me more than I was making, and it wasn’t feasible for us to be there. Secondly, it comes to that safety versus dollar value at this point. As business owners, as community members, as citizens of Lead we all have a responsibility. One of the things I did notice is that when we had a few businesses that didn’t close down, we were seeing customers coming from other communities to our community. The problem with that is as we as a community are taking strides to protect ourselves, it can take one place being open to start what could be a terrible outcome in our own city. This is a moment that we help as much as we can. It’s a little heavy handed. However, we’re one of the last communities to do it in this area. I think it comes down to the economic factor needs to be put on pause, and the safety of our community needs to come in. At the end of the day what matters is when this is over we have customers who can come to us. If we decide to throw away the caution and leave it to the business owner, that could be the one link in our town that leads to possible deaths.”
Commissioner Don Mack agreed, saying that the ordinance is incentive to comply with CDC recommendations for social distancing. “If we leave businesses open and offer them the opportunity to comply with cleanliness, etc., it’s an invitation to bring something we just don’t want. I think safety is paramount right now.”
The ordinance also makes the decision to voluntarily change operations easy for business owners, said commissioner Joel Edgar. “For people who weren’t sure if they wanted to, now this puts safety first,” he said.
The Lead City Commission will meet in special session at 5 p.m. next Monday, April 13, to cast final votes for or against the ordinance. City Hall remains closed to the public, however city commission meetings are being broadcast live on Facebook, where the public can write comments that will be read and addressed at the meeting.
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