Colorado restaurants allowed to reopen this week after coronavirus outbreak

Colorado restaurants on Wednesday will be able to seat a limited number of customers inside and some summer camps will be able to open June 1, Gov. Jared Polis announced Monday.

Restaurants will have to follow a number of rules, including limiting the number to half the facility’s occupancy, up to a maximum of 50 people. Groups of guests will be limited to a maximum of eight people and restaurants must space tables at least 6 feet apart, according to guidance from the state. Eateries are also encouraged to open up outdoor seating and keep as many windows and doors open as possible to increase airflow.

Bars that do not serve food will remain closed and the governor’s office in June will review when those facilities can open again, according to a Monday news release. Establishments with enough space, like breweries, can also partner with a food truck or a local restaurant for food service and open.

Polis praised Coloradans’ efforts to curb the novel coronavirus and said the collective changes made the reopenings possible.

“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,” Polis said in a news release. “If not, it will cost lives, and the economic pain will also be worse.”

Restaurant owners’ reactions to the guidelines for opening have been mixed, said Sonia Riggs, CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association.

“Many are desperate to reopen,” Riggs said. “Some will need more than two days to ramp back up — they need to order supplies, hire back staff, re-train, et cetera.”

Others will likely not open their dining spaces at all due to the limits on the number of people they can allow inside, Riggs said. The limit of 50% capacity, up to 50 people, is the biggest disappointment in the guidelines, she said. A survey of more than 250 restaurant operators conducted by the association found that about 80% said they would reopen their restaurants if allowed to open at half capacity, though 9% said they would still have to consider permanently closing in less than a month.

Eric Hyatt, owner of Angelo’s Taverna in Denver’s Speer neighborhood, said he and his staff are thrilled to serve inside again, though operations will be different. Staff reorganized tables to create the required distancing and diners will be limited to 1.5-hour stays at the restaurant. A “sanitation czar” appointed each shift will be tasked with cleaning high-use surfaces every 30 minutes, Hyatt said. The restaurant will start taking reservations beginning Friday, though some walk-up tables may be available before then.

“I think they did a great job with it,” Hyatt said of the guidelines. “I’m happy with what they came up with. They’re keeping myself and our staff safe, first and foremost.”

Five outbreaks of COVID-19 have been connected to Colorado restaurants, according to data collected by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Four of the outbreaks were connected with Front Range fast food joints and the fifth started at a pizza restaurant in San Miguel county.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said on Monday that Denver restaurants would be allowed to reopen, though the city will require customers to wear masks at all times when they’re not eating or drinking. The city has received 375 applications from restaurants wanting to expand their outdoor seating, Hancock said in a statement.

Several Colorado counties, including Douglas and El Paso counties, were granted variances by state health officials that allowed eateries to open prior to Polis’ decision Monday.

Daytime summer camps for children will also be allowed to open starting June 1, though overnight programs must wait until at least July. The programs will have to follow guidelines as well, including limiting the number of campers in a space and keeping groups of kids from mixing.