BOZEMAN — Montana non-essential businesses will be able to start reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic as of Monday.
That includes main streets across Montana.
Pick any downtown area across the state, like in Bozeman, and you’ll see a wide variety of signs — and now, a new sign: ‘"Grand re-opening, May 4."
According to the Downtown Bozeman Partnership, many businesses are ready. Others are wondering if they should.
“The businesses can reopen,” says Ellie Staley, director of the Downtown Bozeman Association. “That doesn’t mean they need to reopen.”
As of next Tuesday, if the directive would have continued to that point, the state of Montana would have been under Governor Bullock’s stay-at-home directive for a month, a long time for business owners like Katie Wing, who runs the Loft Spa near downtown.
“Ultimately, I do feel prepared,” Wing said on Thursday morning at the Gallatin City-County Board of Health meeting following Bullock’s address. “I’m also concerned about the preparedness of my industry, as a whole.”
“Across the board, there is hesitancy,” Staley says. “They are being very individual and strategic about the way that they get their businesses open, keeping in mind, of course, their employees as well as their customers.”
It's a hesitancy that Staley says she feels, herself.
“They are all doing their own thing to do it at their own pace,” she says.
Staley says she communicates with many Main Street businesses daily, each with questions.
“What are their business hours?” Staley says. “How many employees are they bringing back? These are tough questions. It looks very different from business to business, their type of clientele, the type of clientele that is going to come back and then also for their employees.”
But Staley says there are answers.
They can reopen to in-shop services starting May 4.
If they aren't ready, they don't have to.
But other questions revolve around the usual schedule of events that flood Main Street, including events like Bobcat Fest on Main.
“We’ll be working directly with the health department to set these specific dates, set these parameters,” Staley says. “There may be a chance to change our schedule, make modifications to still, in a way, bring our community together the way that we love to.”
Spring events are still canceled but impacts to summer Main Street events are yet to be seen.
But Staley says an effort has already started to make Phase One easier.
“The Board of Health made a couple of indications about some focus groups,” Staley says. “We need to hear from our business owners and for them to be a part of this process.”
A tool kit, which is aimed to be ready by Monday, will help businesses like a director.
“Are businesses prepared to handle it?” Wing said at the meeting.
Staley says those are the questions she wants to hear, showing signs of businesses wanting to rebound the right way the first time.
“I’m not surprised by the passion of our downtown businesses,” Staley says. “We’ll keep on trucking.”
The Downtown Bozeman Association will keep their website updated with every new reference guide as they become available at www.downtownbozeman.org.
“The reaction during this whole thing of our business community has been unbelievable,” Staley says. “Everyday that I walk Main Street before and during this whole thing, I’m consistently blown away by our businesses’ passion and creativity.”