Back on the menu


Restaurants allowed to reopen, county variances granted


Colorado’s restaurants will be allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity for in-person dining, with specific protocols, beginning this week This will be the first time they’ve been allowed to serve customers food at their establishments since March 16, when the state shut down dining due to COVID-19 concerns.

Gov. Jared Polis announced the update to the "safer at home" order on Monday and the full version of the new rules were released Tuesday. This latest version of his executive order expires on June 1.

On Wednesday, the state granted a variance request Ouray County submitted to allow dining – after announcing it would be allowed to start again statewide. However, Ouray County’s variance allows restaurants to serve a larger number of people, and larger groups of people per table, so it will be less strict than the state’s new order in limiting the number of customers.

This variance will remain in place unless Ouray County has more than five new cases of virus confirmed in a twoweek period. If there are six or more new cases in a 14-day period, it will automatically trigger the variance to be rescinded.

Restaurants across Colorado were able to begin serving food at tables on Wednesday, with specific rules in place. Among those rules is a limit on how many people can be seated at a time in the restaurant. Limitations will be set at 50 percent capacity of the indoor posted occupancy code limit, but they cannot exceed 50 people, whichever is less.

Here in Ouray County, the variance granted by the state allows up to 100 people to be served at a time, but the 50 percent occupancy limit remains.

Other notable points in the state’s restaurant guidelines include:

- Continuing to allow alcohol pickup and delivery

- Limiting group size for in-person dining to parties of 8 or fewer

- Requiring distancing between tables/parties of at least six feet

- Encouraging reservations and not allowing people to congregate in waiting areas for tables (such as restaurant lobby areas)

- Not allowing self-seating

- Not allowing common condiment areas or drink stations

- Requiring sanitation protocols to ensure restaurants can deep-clean tables and areas between parties for dining

- Requiring restaurants to provide hand sanitizer

- Requiring restaurants to clean bathrooms at least every hour, provide safe spacing within restrooms (blocking off stalls or urinals to allow six feet of space between users)

- Asking restaurants to “post clear signs” notifying patrons and employees of expectations and protocols for sanitation, including notification that if anyone in their household has experienced COVID-19 symptoms they shouldn‘t enter

Because Ouray County does not have stricter guidelines limiting restaurant dining, this means restaurants here will fall under the purview of the new "safer at home" regulations allowing them to reopen at half-capacity.

The county’s Unified Command is hosting meetings today and Friday to discuss reopening issues with restaurants and lodging establishments.

Restaurants are also encouraged to provide as much outdoor services as possible. Bars will remain closed. Establishments that do not serve food will be evaluated in June (this includes bars).

Other updates were also announced by the governor this week.

Children’s day camps and youth sports camps will open on June 1. Residential overnight camps will be closed in June. Decisions for July and August overnight camps will be made in mid-June. Day camps, including mobile, youth sports camps, and outdoor camps, must operate with restrictions and strong precautionary measures.

“I know this has been a very different school year than many students were expecting and thanks to the success of our social distancing efforts so far, Colorado kids will be able to enjoy day camps and youth sports camps this summer in as safe a manner as possible. The risk, though less, is still very real, and it’s up to families to make the best decisions that work for them. We also appreciate the critical role that day camps, along with daycare which has already been operating in as safe a manner as reasonably possible, play in supporting working parents,” Polis said.

Though the state still has a 10-person limit on mass gatherings, the new orders allowing sports camps and other day camps for kids to resume have a 25-participant limit.

Private campsites were allowed to open on May 25. Campgrounds in the Colorado State Parks system are already open.

Ouray County previously submitted a variance request to the state health department to allow in-person dining to resume, modeled on similar requests from neighboring Montrose and Mesa counties. Two other variance requests were also submitted – one pertaining to the 10-mile recreational travel limits and operations for short-term vacation rentals. The state granted the variance on recreational travel within Ouray County (without a 10-mile restriction) along with the restaurant variance on Wednesday.

The governor also addressed the 10-mile travel restriction in this latest statewide order, instead asking Coloradans to limit travel “to within their local community or as necessary to access outdoor recreation areas.” The new order also urges residents “to honor all restrictions in place at their destination and avoid travel to counties or municipalities that issue travel restrictions.”

The state did not grant a variance request from Ouray County to begin shortterm rental operations, and that request remains under review.


EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect that dining parties are limited to 8 people at restaurants. A previous version of the story said the limit was 10. This is not the case and the story has been corrected.