State allows restaurants to reopen at half capacity starting Wednesday

  • COVID-19, courtesy Centers for Disease Control
    COVID-19, courtesy Centers for Disease Control

Colorado's restaurants will be allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity for in-person dining, with specific protocols, beginning on Wednesday. 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 this morning. Specific guidelines for restaurants to resume in-person dining are located here.

The full version of the public health order will be released Tuesday, but Polis made the announcement this morning that beginning May 27, restaurants will be able to reopen for more than take-out and curbside service. Limitations will be set at 50% capacity of the indoor posted occupancy code limit, but they cannot exceed 50 people, whichever is less.

Other notable points in the restaurant guidelines include:

- Continuing to allow alcohol pickup and delivery

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

- Required 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

- No common condiment areas or drink stations 

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

- Requires restaurants to provide hand sanitizer

- Requires 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)

- Asks 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

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. Those are still pending. 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.

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). Here is a link to some frequently asked questions from the state on the latest version of the "safer at home" order. 

Other updates were also announced by the governor this morning:

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. 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 (LPHA) for approval. 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. 

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

Editor's note: This is an evolving story and will be updated for this week's print edition as we learn more.