DENVER (CBS4) – Banners were raised and streets were closed. Denver is once again host to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game. Events begin Thursday with the MLB Pitch Hit and Run and the MLB Junior Home Run Derby at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
The city knows that many eyes will be watching and hopes it will attract many new people hoping to return.
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“It’s very important to our image, branding, and expectation that we will grow our tourism and hospitality investments over the long term,” Mayor Michael Hancock said at a press conference in Coors Field.
A few blocks away, business owner and host Jon Schlegel sees it as a turning point and calls the game an “epic opportunity.” Schlegel was hit hard after opening the Attimo Winery on North Larimer Street in January last year, just before the pandemic broke out.
Schlegel had traveled back and forth to northern Italy, where they created their wines. His partners in Italy were hit hard even in the early days of the pandemic. Italy’s falls swelled.
“And they always said, Giovanni, Jon, it’s not a question of if, but of when. This is coming, be ready, ”he said. “We have increased from 33 to four employees. I asked the four remaining members to raise their salaries to 60%, because that’s all we could afford, ”said Schlegel.
They did what they could to weather the cuts. A wine club helped. People driving by to get wine.
“We put the wine in the back and they drove away, gloves, mask, all that stuff,” he recalled. With government funding and persistence, they got through.
Business is picking up, but it’s clear that some people are slowly coming back out. On Wednesday, he spoke to customers for the first time since the pandemic began.
When he went to bring staff back, he found that many had had enough.
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“Even people who said they wanted to come back weren’t ready. They sat on sofas and didn’t work long enough, they would collect enough unemployment. “
He says to some that he does not expect to become unemployed again until September, when the additional payments are due to expire.
“They were depraved because they did everything in this business, then the industry snatched everything away from them, and so it exhausted their own passion for what this is about.”
Now the big game can mean more people than he was hoping for when it opened.
“I think it’s more than just the all-star game. It’s the idea that we can go back to downtown Denver. We can be part of this human structure again. “
He believes that people thirst for human interaction. However, Denver is struggling to work. Homelessness among them.
“Denver is very busy right now when it comes to the homeless population. There is a lot of mental instability in both post-traumatic unemployment and substance abuse. The graffiti is as intense as I’ve ever seen it down here. I hope the city is ready to step on the gas right there. There are too many people on the streets and in tents and it is not safe for them and it is not safe for the pedestrians. “
The collective effort for the all-star game is a unifying goal. One that he hopes will help Denver overcome COVID-19.
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“Coors Field takes care of their business. The police, healthcare and hospitality industries are doing everything we can because we want that liveliness. Not for the paycheck, but for the feeling of being back in the world. “