State guidance for restaurants opening dine-in service, from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, was released May 25. The state health department still encourages restaurants to continue pick-up and delivery service, including for alcohol.
For those that re-open indoor dine-in service, the following requirements apply:
• Patrons can be served at 50% of the posted occupancy code limit and a maximum of 50 patrons.
• Patrons in different groups must be a minimum of 6 feet apart. Spacing of tables may need to be 6 feet or more to ensure proper physical distancing between parties.
• All employees must wear face coverings.
• “Ensure maximum ventilation” by opening windows and minimizing air conditioning to the extent possible.
• Deep clean and disinfect all shared surfaces between groups — at each turnover.
• Do not allow parties to mingle with each other, and limit party size to eight people or fewer.
• Encouraging, and preferably requiring, reservations. Waiting parties must not congregate in entrance areas and should wait in cars or outside until seating is available.
• Provide contactless payment or prepayment options whenever possible.
• Discontinue use of tablecloths, move to single-use or remove and replace laundered tablecloths between patrons.
• Use disposable single-use menus or menu boards, or create online menus for guests to review.
• Provide single-use or single-serving condiments.
• Disinfect restrooms every hour and provide hand sanitizer at check-in area and throughout venue.
The state encourages outdoor dine-in service, for which the following requirements must be met:
• Patrons in different groups must be a minimum of 6 feet apart. Spacing of tables may need to be 6 feet or more to ensure proper distancing between different parties.
• Staff must disinfect and deep-clean all shared surfaces between seatings.
See more of the guidance at tinyurl.com/RestaurantGuidanceCDPHE.
According to the guidance, restaurants also should implement symptom monitoring protocols for employees, including temperature monitoring and symptom screening questions, where possible. They should encourage sick employees to use the CDPHE Symptom Tracker at tinyurl.com/SymptomTrackerColorado.
Eateries across Colorado are now allowed to resume sit-down service, but Gov. Jared Polis acknowledged “the pain our restaurants have been through” during the state's closure of dine-in service.
“And that means everybody,” Polis said at a May 26 news conference. “It means, of course, restaurant owners, but it also means chefs, sous chefs, bussers, wait staff, greeters” and other workers associated with restaurants.
The day before, Polis announced that restaurants could reopen for limited in-person dining as of May 27.
In response to a Colorado Community Media reporter's question during the May 26 news conference, Polis didn't say the state could provide immediate financial assistance to help restaurants survive. But he expressed desire to work with the state Legislature on a small-business relief fund and hopes the federal government can offer more help.
“Many restaurants are participating in the (federal) Paycheck Protection Program, but as originally constructed, it didn't work perfectly for them because they didn't have a big payroll or any payroll in some cases during the time period where they were closed,” Polis said.
He added: “We hope there's a piece in the next federal legislation that applies specifically to tourism businesses (and) to restaurants.”
Colorado's restaurant industry accounts for more than 294,000 jobs, or roughly 10% of statewide employment, according to Polis' presentation.
In authorizing restaurants to resume dine-in operations, Polis said in a May 25 statement that the state is "still a long way from returning to normal, but these updates are a step in the right direction because Coloradans are doing a good job so far limiting our social interactions."
He added: “If we can continue staying at home as much as possible, wearing face coverings and washing our hands when leaving the house, then we will be able to slow the spread of the virus while reigniting our economy.”
But he warned: “If not, it will cost lives, and the economic pain will also be worse.”
Colorado on March 16 ordered bars and restaurants to stop dine-in service for 30 days — still allowing delivery, take-out and drive-through service — in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.
But extensions of the shutdown have kept restaurants and bars closed — except in counties with waivers from state requirements — until now.
Restaurants are now able to open with limited seating, with different parties spaced at least 6 feet apart, and the state is encouraging local officials to allow expanded outdoor seating options. Polis has suggested cities and counties should consider seating on sidewalks, parking lots and even streets. Municipal parking areas could also be an option, he said.
“That's really the only way, with the spacing, that we're going to have a thriving restaurant” industry, Polis said at a May 18 news conference. He added: Restaurants “simply can't stay in business with a quarter or half capacity.”
Polis also hopes restaurants would expand on their own property outdoors and on adjacent or non-adjacent private plots nearby, as long as they have permission of the landowner.
Bars, however, don't all have the green light to open for dine-in service. The state will evaluate in June whether establishments that do not serve food can open, according to a fact sheet from the governor's office on the new guidelines.
“The intent of this guidance is to open establishments in which people traditionally associate only with those in their party,” the fact sheet says.
Whether a business can open as a restaurant depends on whether it is set up to host patrons for meals, the fact sheet continues.
“In many cases, this is straightforward when an establishment already functions as a conventional restaurant and has a full-service kitchen,” the fact sheet says. “There may be some establishments, like breweries with large indoor and outdoor spaces, that want to change their business model to re-open and operate like a restaurant. In these cases, food must be provided by a licensed retail food establishment.”
A business could partner with neighboring restaurants to provide food or partner with food trucks, according to the fact sheet. Light snacks, such as bar nuts, or things that are commercially prepared somewhere else and heated up in a microwave don't count as food service. Allowing patrons to bring their own takeout or order food from an app does not count either, the fact sheet says.
Any establishment that can adhere to the state's guidelines and ensure access to food for on-premise consumption can open, the guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says.
The governor's office's fact sheet addresses the question: What if COVID-19 cases spike up after opening up more businesses?
“The governor won't hesitate to take the necessary steps to protect the health and safety of Coloradans, including going back to the stay-at-home level” of restrictions or issuing other rules, the fact sheet says.
Under the state's safer-at-home order — Colorado's current set of social distancing standards — “we must continue staying home as much as possible, and take the necessary steps like washing hands and wearing a mask when leaving the house,” the fact sheet says.
Meanwhile, children's day camps and youth sports camps were allowed to open June 1, according to the governor's office's news release.
Residential overnight camps remain closed, and decisions for July and August overnight camps will be made in mid-June. Children's residential camps that choose to operate as day camps must work with the Colorado Department of Human Services and their local public health agency for approval.
Day camps, including mobile, youth sports camps and outdoor camps, must operate with restrictions as specified in the state's guidance at tinyurl.com/ColoradoCampGuidance.
Effective May 25, private campsites could open, according to the release. If a host county would like to keep campsites closed, county commissioners should consult with their local public health agency and then notify the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the state health department in writing, the release said. Campgrounds in the state park system are already open.
The state's Executive Order D 2020-049, which extended the closure of ski resorts, has expired, the release said. Ski resorts may work to secure approval from their local authorities in order to open.
Arapahoe Basin re-opened for spring skiing May 27.
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