ST. GEORGE — The Affogato West coffee shop has pledged to join the “Safe Southern Utah” campaign, organized by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce and local business leaders to promote employee and consumer health while strengthening the region’s economy.
Affogato West’s owner Elise West said that with COVID-19 cases increasing daily and much still unknown about the lasting effects of the virus, it’s more important now than ever before for the community to take precautions.
“I think that in Utah, we’ve been somewhat protected up until now and we’ve let our guard down,” she said. “I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve seen an increase in cases. It’s important to take those safety measures, and I’m all on board with it.”
Businesses that join the Safe Southern Utah campaign commit to observing the following practices to help protect customers and employees:
- Ensure employees are wearing face masks and other personal protective equipment when needed.
- Observe social distancing, including spacing customers or clients according to state guidelines.
- Check employees daily for COVID-19 symptoms.
- Promote healthy hygiene, including frequent handwashing.
- Clean high-touch surfaces frequently.
“Businesses who take this pledge will receive a ‘Safe Southern Utah Badge’ and informational posters to display on their property as well as materials to inform customers about precautions that the business is taking to keep both employees and customers safe,” St. George Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Don Willie said in a press release. “This campaign helps us protect the public while moving our economy forward – it’s about building consumer confidence.”
Affogato West has also implemented further safety measures including the removal of furniture that cannot be cleaned between customers and contactless credit card payment. There is a sanitizing station for customers and a plexiglass barrier installed at the register and order pickup area.
For the time being, Affogato West will not accept travel beverage containers for refills and has suspended use of their signature mugs that customers have come to know and love, West said. Food is served on disposable plates.
“Everything’s out of paper. That has definitely increased the cost for cups, straws, lids. We go through a lot of masks,” she said. “We’re just constantly sanitizing the floor area.”
Face coverings are required for all employees and customers. The only time a customer may remove their mask is once they sit down to eat and drink.
If a customer chooses not to wear a mask, West said she or a member of her staff will let that person know that perhaps Affogato West is not the place for them, adding that she will stand firmly behind this mask policy while the threat of COVID-19 remains in the community.
“Regardless of our views, as business owners, we need to take responsibility for the safety of our employees and customers,” she said.
West said she and her staff have managed to stay healthy during the pandemic, which she attributes largely to consistent mask use. If an employee were to contract COVID-19, the resulting 14-day closure would devastate her business.
West started her coffee shop in the summer of 2017 as a food truck. She signed the lease on a converted movie theater near the intersection of Red Hills Parkway and 1000 East just over a year ago, creating West Village, a community gathering spot with a live performance stage and retail boutiques.
When the virus struck, Affogato West suspended dine-in service from March 17 through May 31 but continued to operate by offering curbside pickup. However, most of the shops in West Village have since moved out.
“The city approved a makeshift drive-through for me to save my business, which I was very grateful for,” West said.
Customers who don’t yet feel comfortable dining in can place their order online and pick it up inside the shop. The capacity of West Village is restricted to 50 people and typically fills up during live music events on the weekends, West said.
West, who has lived in Southern Utah for the past 13 years, expressed appreciation for the community support her business has received throughout the pandemic. She hopes to keep providing a space where locals can safely socialize while enjoying good coffee and music.
“I’d like to weather this storm with everybody else that’s out there and do it in a way that’s promoting kindness and safety,” she said. “I think just being able to provide a place for people to come and feel safe is really important right now.”
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