As we know, 2020 and the resulting pandemic has caused uncertainty and anxiety, not just for businesses, but their employees and customers as well. While some consumers chafe under conditions of wearing masks, others have simply stopped patronizing local businesses because they don’t feel safe and fear catching COVID-19.

One month into the Mesa County Variance Protection Program’s 5-star rating system, it has featured 35 exceptional businesses, a great deal of press from the local media, and many happy, informed, and safe customers for our local economy.


The program is a partnership between the Mesa County Health Department, The Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce and the Daily Sentinel, aimed at showcasing businesses in our area who are exceedingly committed to the health and safety of all who walk through their doors. While promoting mask wearing is a contingency of receiving the 5-star award, the list of other protocols including table spacing and reduced capacity levels aimed to instill the highest level of confidence in patrons walking through the businesses doors. Brunella, owner of Il Bistro Italiano emphatically states, “this award is greatly important to me and my customers. My regulars know we always give our best to them, but now the whole community understands the thoughtful procedures that go on behind the scenes to ensure their safety and enjoyment of my restaurant.”

Along those same lines, Josh Niernberg, Owner and Executive Chef of Bin 707 Foodbar, Taco Party and the new Bin Burger is ecstatic about the program. “We felt this was such an important and impressive program we immediately requested all three of our locations be inspected for the 5-star rating. This type of program happens with great partnerships and ideas only a place like Grand Junction can produce,” Josh says. “Signing up for the program made us take an introspective look into our operations and how we could do even better. We came up with what we affectionately refer to as ‘the cube’ instead of our regular paper menu,” Niernberg continues. Each customer can scan a “QR code” on their phone and pull up the menu. It has eliminated the need for the traditional paper menu at Bin 707, reducing another touchpoint in attempting to keep everyone as safe as possible.

Not all businesses who have been awarded the Mesa County Variance Protection Program’s 5-star award are restaurants. From manufacturers and movie theaters to coffee shops and gymnastics facilities, an abundance of industries here in Mesa County feel the importance of the community effort. Brian Bensley, President and Co-Owner of Legacy Gymnastics and Ninja Academy, felt the award was important for parents to know their facility was safe for their children to recreate in and, “return to a little bit of normalcy in their lives.”

Additionally, Katie Powell, Vice President of Munro Companies felt compelled to lead her business and others in applying to become a 5-star business to show how easy it is to do their part and help keep our county open for business. Katie states, “at Munro Supply we chose to apply to be a Five Star business to ensure that we were doing our absolute best to keep everyone safe. The Health Department Team was thorough and helpful, reviewing best practices and congratulating our team for their efforts. Their suggestions were clear and simple to implement. In this time of uncertainty, I appreciate that the Health Department and the Chamber of Commerce have partnered to help area businesses contribute to keeping Mesa County open. It is such a great program. Every business should consider participating.”

All businesses are eligible to participate. Simply work with the health department to implement best practices for your particular industry and welcome a random inspection team to follow up. That’s it.

Should your business want to partner with The Mesa County Variance Protection Program to be rated for the 5-star program, please email

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