Column and photo by Cara DeGette
Overnight, the world has changed.
Not surprisingly, Park Hillians have largely responded to life in the times of a novel coronavirus with immediacy, resilience, and at times, remarkably good cheer.
Messages of encouragement and support have taken over the Park Hill Neighborhood Facebook page and other local social media. Other postings have provided comic relief, including warnings of an impending toilet paper “Charmageddon” and a video depicting a shady street deal involving an illicit exchange of a roll of TP and big bottle of Purell for a thick wad of cash.
On March 23, Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock announced that the city was going on lockdown to try to halt the spread of the virus. And oh yes, Hancock said, all “nonessential” businesses, including liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries. would be forced to close. That action, of course, elicited immediate panic, sending droves of people packing into liquor stores to stock up – and presumably put the masses at risk of spreading the disease. Within hours, Hancock walked back that order – turns out that liquor and cannabis are essential after all. In an instant, a meme began making its way around the interwebs: “Denver 2020 Prohibition lasted one hour. Never forget.”
Humor in the wake of a devastating health and economic crisis has been a welcome relief, and so too has been the immediate outpouring of support for the plight of local business owners, many of whom, overnight, no longer know their future. More than two million people in the Denver metro area have been ordered to stay at home, at least through April 17.
Stores and pharmacies remain open, and restaurants and bakeries can continue operations, but can only provide take-out or delivery service. Other stores, from hair salons and spas, to boutiques and bookstores – think anything “nonessential” – are closed for the next few weeks.
Park Hill native James Mejia, along with others, have called for a “cash mob,” urging people to call their favorite independently owned business and buy virtual gift cards, usable for when this madness passes and stores can reopen. The idea is simple: support local business, while we collectively flatten the curve of the spread of the virus.
Businesses are scrambling for rent and insurance relief as they confront the reality of instant lost revenue. Many have had to lay off nearly their entire workforce, leaving hundreds of local service industry workers without paychecks. The good news is that for now there will no evictions, and families will not have their utilities shut off because they can’t pay. The food programs operated by Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. have already ramped up to address an immediate increase in demand. (See page 16 for details on where and how to participate.)
Which leads us to the Greater Park Hill News. Like so many other newspapers, the past several years have been a challenging time economically. We rely on our advertisers – most of whom are also small businesses – to keep our operations going. They allow us to provide Park Hill and surrounding neighborhoods with critical local news, opinions and information.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll continue to cover the news as it unfolds. As we do, I’d like you to please follow Mejia’s advice. Create a cash mob of sorts. For local businesses that are closed for now, help get them back to full speed quickly when they reopen. For businesses that are currently open, patronize them now and in the weeks to come.
That includes the great local businesses whose ads you see in this newspaper, and whose support helps to keep our small business going.
When your blockworker (all of them volunteers!) drops the newspaper on your doorstop, thank them for providing this critical – and yes, essential – service. If you can, sign up to also volunteer to bundle or deliver newspapers to blocks of the neighborhood that don’t currently have delivery service. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.)
When a state of emergency was declared in Colorado, numerous government agencies, industries and businesses were exempted – meaning they are considered essential services. This includes hospitals, banks, grocery stores and yes, newspapers. There is good reason for that.
We can do this. We’re Park Hill, and we’re strong.