In the late hours of last Saturday night, Gavin Fine and I, along with our management teams, decided to close all of the Fine Dining Restaurants, The Roadhouse Pub and Eatery, and our Tap Room on Gregory Lane. This decision was not easy, and I want to put a magnifying glass on the “why” behind it, not for any self-interested motive, but because I believe I have a moral obligation to give the public the truth, even if it is a truth uneasy to hear.

Gavin and I sat in the emergency meeting with the town of Jackson and Teton County Board of County Commissioners on Saturday for four hours and listened to experts testify on the potential seriousness of the situation in Jackson related to COVID-19. What we saw was concerned representatives of the public and private sectors doing their levelheaded best to get their arms around the implications of this national emergency that is happening before our eyes.

Members of the Town Council did the best they could to balance their reaction appropriately to the threat, but government, no matter its size, does not have the tools to move efficiently like the private sector can.

With this in mind, Gavin and I determined to flex our capacity for change and set an example as we witnessed a shortage of what we saw as necessity to contain this crisis: swift action. We were motivated by concern for our people and the recognition that in a highly social environment, like our busy restaurants, we couldn’t find enough sanitary measures to keep both our staff and our patrons assured of their basic need for safety.

In addition to this primary driver was the onus we felt to send a message to our town, and the people within it, to wake everyone up to the severity of this situation. We had hoped that by taking a measure of this magnitude, with likely catastrophic damage to our organizations, people would pay attention, and we were right.

Within 24 hours nearly every other major private gathering establishment followed suit by acting courageously and decisively to close or limit its operations, and come today most of the balance of Teton County nonessential businesses will be forced to close, per the mandate from Public Health officials, for two weeks as a spread prevention method for COVID-19.

We must all recognize that we are in uncharted territory, and we face the very real prospect of irreversible damage to our society and this town.

The emergency ordinance passed was a powerful message to others that we are in crisis. That decision took real political courage, and we should be proud of our county and town representatives. I personally have been moved by the fact that private businesses in Jackson took it upon themselves to act without mandate, and out of concern for our people, and am grateful public health recognized the need to limit gatherings in our community further.

If Gavin and I and the other business owners in this town are accused of taking this crisis too seriously, I think we can live with that. We must not be afraid of overreacting, because the opposite of that could mean someone you love and care about is no longer with us, or you’ve become a carrier who can take that same someone from another member of this community.

Gavin and I would like to express our deep gratitude to our management team and all our employees for the sacrifices they have made over the last few days.

People who get sick from this virus and suffer irreversible consequences are the true victims in this situation, and our health workers doing their best to treat them are the true heroes.

But the people who lost their jobs this week are also victims and my heart goes out to them. We have worked hard over the years to build a family around us, and we were devastated to be put in the position we were in. We look forward to the day soon when we can all get back to work and have a “shift beer” together.

Finally, I want to thank all the other business leaders and their employees who have taken a strong stand these past few days. You all are inspiring, and I wish you the best in dealing with this situation. As Gavin and I have continued to preach in the many moments of emotional despair we’ve experienced over the past few days, we are all in this together.

Colby Cox is co-founder of Roadhouse Brewing Co.; Gavin Fine owns Fine Dining Restaurant Group. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their authors.

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