At its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, the Basalt Town Council will hear how the town fared financially during its third quarter, between July 1 and Sept. 30.
“We’re doing obviously far better than anticipated,” Mayor Bill Kane said in an interview Sunday. “There are three or four sort of layers I think to this phenomenon.”
Kane credited new online sales tax remittance laws, bolstered retail food sales and the influx of visitors to Basalt over the summer as contributing factors to the town’s economic viability.
According to sales tax reports from the town’s third financial quarter, a number of local industries performed considerably well.
“Fly fishing absolutely boomed. Ridiculous. Never seen a year like it,” said Robyn Lawry, Frying Pan Anglers proprietor. “People took up fly fishing and bike riding and everything to do with the outdoors.”
During the month of July, the town of Basalt collected over $30,000 worth of sales tax revenue on sporting retail purchases, marking a 52% increase when compared to July of 2019.
“Fly fishing is the perfect social distancing. You can’t get close to someone with a nine-foot fly rod in your hand,” Lawry said.
In addition to owning Frying Pan Anglers, Lawry also owns the Aspenalt Lodge in Basalt. According to Lawry, since July, the 36-room lodge had been full nearly every weekend — thanks largely to walk-in customers as opposed to guests who booked well in advance.
“People book up for the Fourth of July and all of that,” Lawry said of years past. “People who did their annual holidays, they pulled out, but it was replaced by impromptu people just wanting to get out of the city.”
In July, the town’s lodging sector generated 40% less in sales tax revenue than it did during July of 2019; however, the lodging sector’s sales tax remittance leveled off when it collected $23,996 for the town in August — $45 more than the lodging sector remitted in August of 2019.
As the local lodging industry caught its stride mid-third quarter, retail liquor sales remained strong throughout. In July, sales tax revenue from retail liquor sales were up nearly 39% when compared to July of 2019.
Gonzo Mirich, who owns and operates Jimbo’s Liquor in Basalt, said business was strong throughout the summer, despite fewer weddings in the area and the hefty alcohol sales that typically accompany them.
“People in general — at least here in Basalt — I don’t think all of a sudden everyone turned into a raging alcoholic,” Mirich said. “It was just the way things were purchased.”
According to Mirich, when bars were forced to largely shutter during the pandemic, people turned to liquor stores like Jimbo’s for drinks they’d generally purchase at their usual watering holes.
To his point, Mirich explained that during the pandemic, premade cocktail sales at Jimbo’s were up considerably.
“People are really enjoying hanging out at other places with friends without having to do the whole bar scene,” Mirich said. “It might change the trend — if not for good, for a little bit.”
All in all, things are looking up in the town’s economic scene. According to a town staff report, “revenue for the town overall remains stronger than expected during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
But despite better-than-expected revenue, members of council have stressed adhering to a “conservative” approach while working on and finalizing the 2021 budget.
“It’s all about how you spend, where you spend and for whom you spend,” councilor William Infante said. “We want to be prepared to be able to respond in a responsible and appropriate manner.”