As of last week, the Center for Disease Control (the CDC) provided guidance that the public should not engage in gatherings of more than 50 people (later updated to discourage gatherings of more than 10 people), shutting all venues, movie theaters and other gathering places in the state. On Monday, most county health departments around the State of Montana ordered restaurants and bars to close, shutting down hundreds, if not thousands of locally-owned businesses. I fully agree with these actions and strongly believe these actions will be the most effective way to move through this situation in a safe and expedited manner.
With the above said, these mandatory closures have devastated thousands of bar and restaurant owners, and have displaced tens of thousands of service industry workers. Simply put, many restaurants and bars will not survive and many workers will not be able to pay their bills. Needless to say, the economic impact of this situation is devastating to the owners of these businesses, and as importantly, the workers in the service industry.
I do not write this letter for sympathy, but rather a plea to our community. The longer this goes on, the greater the impact will be. Protracted closures will lead to more business failures, as well as more time that service industry professionals are without a paycheck. Missoulians can help bring this to a speedy conclusion, but it requires sacrifice, selflessness and for us all to put our community ahead of our self interests.
First, we in the service industry beg Missoulians to take this seriously. I appreciate that to many this seems like a common cold. Unfortunately this is not the common cold. It is significantly more contagious and it is much more lethal to the most vulnerable in our society. It is essential that we all follow the local, state and federal directions, as well as the CDC guidelines. Do not gather in groups of more than 10. Practice the sanitation guidelines. Stay home when you can. In other words, think about your actions.
For those that are returning from spring break and other travels -- while you were gone, life in Missoula has changed dramatically for many. I very much appreciate that people traveling need, and in many cases are very anxious, to return home. Please do so in a thoughtful and responsible manner. You are bringing risk into the Missoula community, and that risk could expand the spread of Coronavirus, which will have a dramatic impact on our local businesses and community, and more importantly, will place those that are most vulnerable at increased risk. When you get back, self quarantine for a week at minimum. If you have symptoms, get tested.
In the end, Missoula is a strong, tight community that will persevere. I am grateful for how friends and business partners have responded. Companies like First Interstate Bank, Powder Hounds, Palmer Electrical, Mike Jones, Sweet Pea Sewer & Septic and others have discounted their services, or in some cases, have waived payments. This is what a community does in times of need. I am grateful to be part of such an awesome community. Please continue to unite and help get life back to normal, whatever that will be.
Robin and Nick Checota are the owners of the Top Hat and Logjam Presents.