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Retailers, salons begin reopening in Billings

Posted at 8:41 PM, Apr 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-27 23:23:26-04

It was the day many Montana businesses have waiting for as the state lifted its stay-at-home order—allowing Main Street and retail businesses to put the “We’re Open" sign back in the window.

It was noticeable difference Monday in Billings. Traffic was the heaviest it's been in weeks along Grand Avenue in Billings as retail shops and other businesses once again opened their doors.

Business wasn’t exactly brisk at Rimrock Mall, but a steady stream of people could be seen going in and out throughout the day.

“After being sequestered, if you will, for five weeks, six weeks, it’s fun to see the merchants, the customers, the mall walkers the community back out. So it’s been good," said Rimrock Mall General Manager Devin Hartley.

A little less than a third of the stores in the mall are open, just 19 of 65, but Hartley expects that number to start picking up soon. The mall is taking extra steps for COVID-19 prevention, such as closing half of the restrooms so they can be thoroughly cleaned.

Hartley says most people seemed to be adhering to social-distancing recommendations.

“I think that largely most of the folks are observing the social distancing. I think that they take it seriously. I think the community takes it seriously,” he said.

The mall is taking extra steps for COVID-19 prevention, such as closing half of the restrooms so they can be thoroughly cleaned.

Businesses considered nonessential in Montana have been closed since March 28, when Gov. Steve Bullock announced his stay-at-home order aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19. Bullock announced last week he was lifting the order and beginning a phased reopening of businesses.

Some of the most popular places seemed to be hair salons and barbershops that have reopened. At Great Clips, people stood outside in line to wait for a haircut. Only five people are allowed inside at a time.

Businesses in Billings are being asked to be a part of the “Safe and Open Campaign,” designed by the county's economic recovery group. Signs are being placed in businesses across town to remind both employees and customers to do their part.

“The idea is that businesses will take that pledge to be open and safe and create an environment for their staff and for customers to feel comfortable and safe while they are doing business,” said Billings Chamber President and CEO John Brewer.

Signs are available YCeconomicrecovery.org.