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Local businesses reopening, but feeling impact of extended closures

Many Lincoln businesses have been closed for longer than a month, and those closures have wide-reaching impacts.

Restaurants and bars have been some of the hardest hit, with the first closure order from Lewis and Clark Public Health for dine-in businesses going into effect Mar 17. Governor Steve Bullock then mandated the closures continue from Mar 20-27 and extended them twice, first to Apr 10, then to Apr 24. On Apr 22, Bullock announced that dine-in establishments would be allowed to begin reopening with restrictions on May 4.

“I wasn’t planning on this lasting for weeks or months. I was thinking maybe three weeks or a month,” said Jill Frisbee, owner of the Pit Stop, who plans to continue providing take out meals but not dine-in service at this time.

Other businesses, like motels and outfitters, have seen an impact from closure directives as well, despite their businesses still being open.

Beginning March 19, Bullock issued directives for Montanans who had traveled internationally to self-quarantine for 14 days upon returning to the state. On March 30, that was extended to cover any travelers who had been to another state or country for non-work reasons. In conjunction with similar orders from nearby states and across the country, local businesses have seen a precipitous drop in tourist-related revenue.

“I really worry for our economy and how are we going to bounce back from that. But we can work together, and hopefully we can get through it. We’re strong,” said Laurie Richards, owner of the Wheel Inn, regarding the impact of the closures throughout the community.

Some of this loss has been due to the cancelation of several annual Lincoln events that bring in visitors. Events like the Pete Sitch Memorial Basketball Tournament, which would have been held Mar 21 and 22, bring visitors to town who support motels, restaurants, and bars. Some business owners worry that the impact on tourism may be long-lasting.

“As to what the future holds for increased business for summer and fall, we are unsure. We are expecting to be slower than the previous two years due to the fact that a lot of people have been unemployed, so they don’t have the money to spend to travel,” owners of the Three Bears Motel, Pattie and Bob Weatherston, wrote in an email.

On March 24, the governor’s directives extended to include prohibiting non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people, and two days later, he issued a stay-at-home directive. Although the stay at home order has been lifted, events like the Fireman’s Ball and the Lincoln Arts and Music Festival have been canceled for 2020. “We are very thankful that the stay-at-home order came during early spring instead of during our busy summer months,” wrote the Weatherstons.

Many businesses, such as Red Mountain Yoga and Massage, which has been closed since March 17, have had to revise their spaces and processes as well.

“There’s going to be different protocol, asking questions before people come in, that are recommendations by the CDC. They’re recommending people wear masks,” said Red Mountain owner Sue Lattin. She said she has been working on revising her intake paperwork. “It still might be a little bit until I open, and I’m just waiting to get as much information and all the supplies I need, and sorting out my space that’s under construction. When I do reopen, I just want to make sure I’m doing the most I can to keep everybody safe.”


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