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Colorado governor lets bars, restaurants serve alcohol until 11 p.m., but continues last-call limit for 30 more days

Bars and restaurants, furious about the limitation, sued Gov. Jared Polis over his last-call order. But a Denver District Court judge sided with the governor and kept the mandate in place.

Gov. Jared Polis speaks to reporters at the governor's mansion in downtown Denver on Aug. 20, 2020. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)
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Gov. Jared Polis on Friday said he will allow bars and restaurants in Colorado to serve alcohol until 11 p.m. starting on Saturday, but extend his last-call order earlier for at least another 30 days. 

Polis last month required bars and restaurants to cut off alcohol service at 10 p.m. for a month in light of rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the state. He said booze was a common factor in the spread of the disease among young people. 

“Hopefully it will give folks a little bit more breathing room,” Polis said of the extra hour during a briefing with reporters at the governor’s mansion in downtown Denver.

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Bars and restaurants, furious about the limitation, sued Polis over the action, but a Denver District Court judge sided with the governor and kept the order in place. 

Alcohol service in Colorado is typically allowed until 2 a.m. Bars and nightclubs in Colorado that don’t provide food service are still not allowed to be open.

“We’re now in a better place,” Polis said in explaining why he made the last-call change. “Our viral presence has gone down 30-40%.”

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, Colorado’s state epidemiologist, said that the last-call order was initially put in place to slow rapid spread of the disease among people ages 20 to 29 years old. The rate of increase, she said, has since decreased.

“We’ve seen a substantial decrease in the number of cases among 20 to 29 year olds,” she said. “That of course is the age group we know is spending more time in bar-type settings.”

Sports Book bartender Casey Stripay tries to hunt down the Nuggets game on the bar’s DirecTV package on Dec. 3, 2019. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Chris Fuselier, owner of Blake Street Tavern in downtown Denver, said an 11 p.m. last-call order will still hurt restaurants hoping to capitalize on Denver sports teams’ playoff runs. Midnight, he said on Twitter, would be better. 

“Remember, restaurants are mandated that patrons be seated at tables + there’s no congregating at bar,” he tweeted. “Then, why can’t we enjoy a game w/drinks until its conclusion (without) being rushed?”

The updated order comes as the surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Colorado appears to have leveled off, if not been corrected. The state had among its lowest rates of positive test results in the past week.

“Nobody is more hopeful than me that we can get to midnight in a month,” Polis said of relaxing his last-call order even further.

Polis attributes the slowing spread of coronavirus in Colorado to increased mask wearing, as well as his last-call order.

Governor worries about college students returning to campus

Polis said that while the spread of coronavirus among people in their 20s appears to be slowing, he’s worried about students returning to Colorado ‘s college and university campuses.

“I’m very concerned about our residential colleges in particular for a couple reasons,” he said. “One is that they’re residential, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that congregate living facilities are at greater risk for spread of the virus.”

MORE: What it’s like for the 100-plus Colorado College students stuck in their dorm after a peer tested positive for coronavirus

Polis said he’s also worried about the “socializing that’s customary” — also known as parties — at colleges and how the disease may spread as young people gather.

“Those are super-spreader events,” he said.

But the governor is hopeful that police departments will be more forceful in their enforcement of noice ordinances in order to send a message to college students that they cannot gather en masse.

“A lot of the municipalities — Boulder, Grand Junction, Fort Collins — have really upped the bar on enforcing their noise ordinances and other normal requirements that often lapse, that often are not enforced, but in this time they take on added significance,” he said.

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