Southgate Mall is poised to follow the state’s Phase 2 plans to wide Montana’s economic reopening, though it will do so slowly and in line with health guidelines set by the Missoula City-County Health Department.
The mall was closed for six weeks during the COVID-19 lock down. It initially reopened in early May, though not all stores were permitted to open from the outset.
“They had to make sure their stores were in alignment with the restrictions,” said mall manager Tim Winger. “They’ve done a really nice job and traffic has been good in their stores.”
Two weeks ago, Gov. Steve Bullock announced his plan to begin Phase 2 – a move that allows bars, restaurants and other businesses to increase capacity to 75% of normal. It also increases the number of people permitted to gather for social functions.
In all cases, social distancing must be maintained. The City-County Health Department last week said it would follow the state process outside of a few instances where a written plan must be in place. Phase 2 begins on Monday.
“There’s a safe way to do those things,” Winger said. “This has been a fluid situation with many changes. For now, we’re in the planning stages and working with the city on some of the events we’d like to see happen in the future.”
Winger said it’s encouraging to see other Missoula staples moving forward, such as the downtown farmer’s market, even if it’s operating at a reduced level. High school graduations will also take place, though under new guidelines.
“We think there’s a way to do many of the events we’ve done in the past,” Winger said. “As things continue on, at some point there may be a normality for where it was before.”
Businesses in the mall have taken their own precautions in accordance with local health guidelines. Winger said cleaning staff have been assigned to zones and the mall itself continues to focus on congregating and distancing.
“Everyone has done a really good job,” said Winger. “Our security has been keeping the groups down to levels they’re supposed to. We feel we’re covering it. The shopping and commerce has opened back up up.”