Sales tax figures released by the city of Aspen late last week confirmed what the local business community already knew — January was a bust.

Two Aspen sectors historically accounting for more than one-third of retail revenue in January saw the largest drops: The lodging sector took a 58.9{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} nosedive in January compared to January 2020, and restaurants’ revenue plummeted by 47.9{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6}, according to the report.

Pitkin County businesses, except restaurants, were under Red-level restrictions starting Dec. 21. Noting the county’s highest COVID-19 incidence rate in the state, Pitkin County’s board of health put restaurants in the Red zone prohibiting indoor dining starting Jan. 17.

The result of the Red-level restrictions was a 33.7{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} drop in overall retail revenue in January from January 2020, the report said.

Retailers in January combined for $62.3 million, compared with $95.9 million in January 2020, $88.1 million in January 2019, and $85 million in January 2018, according to previous city sales tax reports.

The city collected $1.59 million in sales tax payments in January, which aligned with conservative budget predictions while also 29.9{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} lower than the $2.27 million in January 2020 collections.

“Despite continued rollout of vaccinations, Aspen’s local economy continues to be hit hard by Covid-19,” wrote the city’s senior tax auditor, Anthony Lewin, in the city’s monthly consumption report released Friday. “With tight restrictions deterring tourism through January, the economy experienced a 33.7{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} reduction in total taxable sales. Lodging and restaurants continue to be the hardest hit, with lodging down 58.9{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} and restaurants seeing a 47.9{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} dip in comparison to the same timeframe last year.”

“Other industries are not unaffected, though, as retail spending is down throughout town overall.”

Source: Finance Department, city of Aspen

Of the $13.77 million in revenue generated by the accommodations industry in January, $9.55 million was via traditional lodges, while another $4 million came through short-term rentals and condos, according to the report.

Accommodations also were down 43.7{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} in December from December 2019, while restaurants suffered a 33{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} drop during the holiday month.

Though full of dim economic news, last week’s sales tax report also offered some optimism for the coming months.

“As in last month’s report, these numbers reflect how the accommodations industry has struggled during the pandemic,” Lewis wrote. “However, in discussions with members of the lodging industry, many seem hopeful as summer months are already booking out. We expect to see marked improvement in tax collections over last year’s monthly totals as we enter the summer season.”

Restaurants and other businesses currently are under Yellow-level restrictions. Restaurants can operate at 50{98cae0078f524eff3ab8ec32cf55b261677ef6c8a6ed6e94d92a4234b93f46b6} capacity or with as many as 50 patrons. County businesses participating in the state’s 5-star certification program also are eligible to operate a less restrictive level. Hotels aren’t held to capacity restrictions.

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