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Colorado restaurants can reopen to in-person dining on Wednesday with limited capacity, governor says

Gov. Jared Polis ordered restaurants across the state to close starting on March 16 because of the coronavirus crisis

Ellie Duryea, 14, waits tables in Donita's Cantina on Elk Avenue in Crested Butte, Colorado on August 10, 2019. (Dean Krakel, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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Gov. Jared Polis on Monday said that restaurants across Colorado can reopen to in-person dining — with limited capacity and strict guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of the new coronavirus — starting on Wednesday.

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“Coloradans value our diverse culinary scene and amazing restaurants, and I’m proud that our state is now providing science-based guidelines on how restaurants can open as safely as reasonably possible for their employees and customers,” Polis said in a written statement. “Diners will have more space between tables and at many restaurants, more opportunities to eat outside. The safest thing anyone can do is stay home whenever possible, but for those who want to shop and dine we want to make sure it can be done as safely as possible.”

Restaurants will only be allowed to operate at 50% o their indoor occupancy limit and cannot exceed 50 total customers at any given time. They are also encouraged to provide as much outdoor services and dining space as possible.

Bars will remain closed, the governor’s office says, and establishments that do not serve food — such as breweries — will be evaluated for reopening in June.

Polis ordered the closure of eateries across the state on March 16 to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Restaurants have been allowed to offer takeout and delivery since then, but the vast majority have been losing money and have laid off or furloughed workers as a result. 

MORE: A Denver restaurant fights to keep its doors open — and its staff paid — as coronavirus crumbles the industry

Restaurants that choose to reopen for in-person dining will have to follow strict guidelines, including spacing tables apart, using disposable menus and ensuring their servers are wearing masks and can take frequent breaks to wash their hands. (The full guidelines can be viewed here.)

Many worry that the guidelines will continue to cut into their revenues. The Colorado Restaurant Association says it fears more restaurants will close since they are only allowed to operate under reduced capacity.

“A restaurateur doesn’t open putting a business model together on a 25% or 50% capacity,” said Sonia Riggs, who leads the Restaurant Association. “They do it based on 100% capacity. So any limits on bringing people back are going to be really financially challenging. And the longer those limits on capacity go on, it’s going to make it even more challenging.”  

Some counties have been granted variances to Colorado’s “safer-at-home” period, which have allowed their restaurants to reopen to in-person dining ahead of the rest of the state. 

TODAY’S UNDERWRITER

Children’s sports, day camps can open on June 1

Polis also announced on Monday that children’s sports and day camps can open starting on June 1.

They must follow guidance from the state, however, including screening campers for symptoms and requiring mask-wearing and hand washing at intervals throughout the day. (The full guidance can be viewed here.)

Any camp that has a confirmed case of the coronavirus among one of its campers or staff is required to notify their local public health agency.

“The risk, though less, is still very real, and it’s up to families to make the best decisions that work for them,” Polis said in a written statement.

Overnight camps — also known as sleep-away camps — will be closed in June. A decision will be made at a later date on whether they can open for July and August.

MAP: Where Colorado’s coronavirus cases have been identified

Safer-at-home order extended to June 1

Polis on Monday also extended Colorado’s safer-at-home order, which was set to expire on Wednesday, until June 1 with a host of modifications.

Among the changes, Coloradans are now allowed to travel beyond 10 miles from their homes to recreate, but are urged to fill up on gas and purchase all of the supplies they will need for any trip ahead of time.

Also, ski areas can reopen if they get approval from local authorities. Arapahoe Basin announced Sunday that it will allow skiers and snowboarders back onto its slopes on Wednesday.

Through Sunday, Colorado had more than 24,000 cases of coronavirus. More than 1,300 people infected with the disease have died.


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