Be Your Own Advocate: How to Contact Your Federal, State, and Local Lawmakers

Your elected representatives can't help you if they don't know what you need.

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Chon Kit Leong © 123RF.com

Business owners need to advocate for themselves in the best of times, and with the hospitality industry currently facing unprecedented challenges, it’s more important than ever for restaurants and bars to know who their federal, state and local legislators are.

To make your voice heard about federal laws and stimulus funds like the proposed RESTAURANTS Act of 2020 or the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), start with senate.gov. There, you’ll find the names and contact info for Colorado’s U.S. Senators (currently Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner). Then, head over to house.gov to and plug your ZIP code into its “Find Your Representative” tool, which is located on the website’s top right corner. If you don’t have luck reaching a federal legislator’s Washington, D.C. office, try contacting his or her local office, which you should be able to find on an individual lawmaker’s website.

Extension of the law allowing delivery and to-go sales alcohol is sure to be on the table for Colorado’s 2021 legislative session. You can find state lawmakers’ names, email addresses, and websites on Colorado General Assembly’s website, leg.colorado.gov.

City councils and municipal lawmakers may be more difficult to track down, especially for Colorado towns that don’t have websites (yes, there are a few). Colorado Department of Local Affairs’ website links to the majority of Colorado’s city and town websites, where you can often find contact information for mayors, trustees or other elected officials. Then there’s the time-honored tradition of picking up the phone, dialing city hall, and asking to speak to whoever’s in charge of rules and regulations that affect your business.

At all levels of government, picking up a phone is the best way to make your voice heard (though you’ll almost always end up speaking to a staff member rather than the elected official in question, at least at the federal and state levels). If you can’t get through by phone and voicemail is full, send an email, which is preferable to dashing off a message or tagging someone on social media. In all cases, identify yourself as a constituent and be polite, concise, and knowledgeable as you state your opinion about actions you’d like to see your elected official take to support restaurants and bars in this challenging time.

Have your lawmakers been responsive, or is trying to have a conversation as productive as talking to a cardboard cutout? Talk to us! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com

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