Restaurants and bars in Colorado Springs saw a 35 percent drop in sales last year during the pandemic, but there now are small signs of an economy in recovery according to an annual report released Wednesday by the Downtown Partnership.
The report highlighted a pandemic-fueled downturn for restaurants, bars and art spaces, but pointed to increased traffic and visitors in the first quarter of 2021.
Rebecca Taraborelli, who owns Rasta Pasta and serves on the board of the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said she's looking forward to serving folks as indoor dining restrictions ease.
"The last year has felt like being more in the food service business and not in the hospitality business," said Taraborelli. "We want to do so much more than just selling our food to people, we wanna give people the full dining experience."
She said her main concerns this year are hiring and staffing as business picks up, and competing with bigger chains that move to Colorado Springs for more affordable leasing rates.
New projects, like the opening of soccer stadium Wiedner Field in May, give Taraborelli hope that she and other restaurant owners will see an increase in business as the year continues. The stadium and Colorado College's Ed Robson Arena might bring new sports fans to downtown beyond the summer tourism season.
Arts and cultural venues also experienced challenges as they tried to reach patrons on new platforms, by hosting virtual shows and drive-in performances. Before the pandemic, Downtown Partnership president and CEO Susan Edmonson said the city hosted nearly 1,000 arts events annually. She’s confident the city will get back to that level.
Edmonson cited the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum opening last July, along with future plans for trail and park improvement, like new play equipment in Acacia Park, as ways to keep people visiting Colorado Springs in the next year.
Andy Vick with the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region says he's proud of people's resiliency.
"It has been a challenge but I think our arts community really rose to the occasion and there are a lot of exciting things on the horizon," said Vick.
Vick said his office is starting the process for a new 10-year cultural plan for the Pikes Peak Region called Arts Vision 2030. Public input gathering started April 5 and will go through the end of July, including focus groups with community members. The plan will be published in October.