Chamber: 5-Star program saved local food and beverage industry $13 million

A program enabling businesses that follow health guidelines and safety practices to operate under less stringent pandemic restrictions saved the local food and beverage industry an estimated $13 million in 2020, the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce announced.

“In an industry that saw the devastating effects of the pandemic more than most, we are proud of how our advocacy efforts resulted in saved jobs and greater income for these many small businesses,” said Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the chamber.

Lauren Schwartz, director of investor relations at the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, also praised the program. “The success of the 5 Star Program demonstrates that businesses can continue operating successfully without sacrificing the health and safety of their employees or customers.”

The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce joined with Mesa County Public Health to implement the Mesa County Variance Protection Program— also called the 5 Star Program.

Under the program, businesses submit a safety plan to Mesa County Public Health. A Mesa County Public Health representative visits establishments and audits their procedures as they relate to the pandemic. To achieve a five-star rating, establishments must demonstrate they’ve implemented policies and procedures in five areas: mask use, social distancing marking, facility capacity, cleaning protocols and active monitoring of symptoms. 

Businesses that receive certification are allowed to operate at less restrictive levels, including the capacity to accommodate more customers.

The program also enables people to know which businesses follow guidelines and practices intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The chamber calculated the economic effects of the program on the food and beverage industry in Mesa County at $13 million in 2020.

The program served as a model that’s been implemented statewide. 

Schwartz said the effort has helped. “Colorado businesses are doing everything they can to keep their doors open and keep paychecks flowing to their employees. Local businesses make up the fabric of our communities, and they need flexibility to remain open through these challenging economic times.”