CRA: Don’t Be a Scofflaw

Curated news from the CRA.

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Male prisoner's hands and forearms reaching through prison bars
Think your hands are tied now? Consider what will happen if you defy public health orders. / Sakhorn Saengtongsamarnsin © 123RF.com

In the wake of a spate of restaurants in Level Red counties openly defying orders to temporarily close dining rooms, the CRA is urging businesses to quash their instincts towards civil disobedience and adhere to Colorado’s public health orders.

There’s also an urgent call to action for Denver operators to encourage the City Council to delay implementation of the 2021 minimum wage increase; where to give feedback on the 5 Star Certification Program (that could allow certain restaurants to operate at higher capacity than the rest of the county) being piloted in Mesa County; upcoming info on Edgewater, Erie, Morrison, Steamboat Springs, and Loveland meetings; a preview of the Colorado’s special legislative session; and a new round of winter outdoor dining grants.

Finally, Dine Out to Help Out, a social media challenge to encourage dining and takeout launches today; see how you can participate. And a reminder about free legal services related to COVID (whew, catch your breath).

The following information comes from the CRA’s November 30 newsletter. Sign up to receive it here

A Message From the CRA: Ignoring State Guidelines Could Lead to Harsh Consequences

In recent days we have heard media accounts and personal stories of restaurants located in counties in Level Red choosing to violate public health orders and remain open for indoor dining. We fully understand your frustration. We understand your desperation and know that some of you feel you have no choice but to break the law and stay open—we know that in many cases the alternative is likely closing your doors for good. But we do not encourage restaurants to break the law.

We strongly urge you to consider the serious consequences associated with violating state and local public health orders. Violating public health orders will put you at risk for:

  • Hefty fines and jail time: Up to a $999 fine and one year in jail.
  • Loss of your liquor and retail food licenses: The State Liquor Enforcement Division (LED) and the State Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) can pull your liquor license and retail food license—effectively shutting your business down—for at least 30 days and potentially for good. (We know that local officials in parts of the state have publicly stated that they will not enforce these orders, but the state officials have the authority to enforce the regulations within those local jurisdictions, and we have already seen that they are taking steps to do so. CDPHE has already issued a letter stating its intent to enforce public health orders.)
  • Ineligibility for state and local financial assistance programs: The financial relief programs currently being debated in the State Legislature clearly state that those the violate health orders will NOT qualify for this assistance. We know that your two greatest needs are cash and capacity, and the state stimulus will help alleviate financial concerns through the next few months while we wait for meaningful relief to come from the federal government.
  • Ineligibility for the 5 Star State Certification Framework that the state is currently considering to allow for increased indoor capacity: Under this new framework, restaurants that can demonstrate certain health and safety efforts could be certified by their county public health agency to increase their capacity beyond the current county level. Again, if you are operating out of compliance with public health orders, you will not be eligible for the increased capacity allowances under this framework.  

Restaurateurs, please know that we hear you. We know how devastating the recent public health orders have been for your businesses. We’ve received countless calls from restaurant owners, operators, and employees from across the state. We will continue to fight for this industry every day.

Preview of Special Legislative Session

The state General Assembly reconvened for a special session this morning, November 30. Governor Polis outlined key priorities in his call to address short-term and urgent COVID-19 needs. The scope of this session is limited to four legislative goals: 

  • A small business relief package with direct aid and tax relief
  • Housing and rental assistance 
  • Support for child care providers 
  • Expanding broadband access to students and educators

Restaurants could see financial relief through business assistance grants and sales tax relief. Specifically, a bill has been introduced to allow restaurants to collect the state sales tax for November through February (2.9%), but then permanently keep (rather than remit to the state) up to $2,000 per month of the amount owed for that same time period. There are also bills that would provide financial assistance (grants) to restaurants and other small businesses and to allow counties to regulate third-party delivery companies. We will be actively advocating for and fighting for this industry through this special legislative session this week and beyond.

Read a full breakdown of the proposed bills here.

Denver Call to Action: Delay for Minimum Wage Increase

Last week, leaders from the Colorado Restaurant Association and the Tavern League met with Denver Mayor Hancock and leading cabinet officials. Since the onset of the pandemic and public health restrictions on restaurants, we have been meeting with the Denver City Council to advocate for a year delay for the scheduled minimum wage increase on January 1, 2021.

During the meeting, we were told that the Denver City Council does not support this delay, even in light of the devastating dining room closures. We need your help reaching out to the Denver City Council, asking them to support a one-year delay for the next minimum wage increase.

We know how badly you are hurting right now. The hospitality community has told us that one in four restaurants will be forced to close within a month given current dining room closures and public health restrictions. More than half of all Denver restaurants say that their payroll costs will increase by more than $30,000 annually after the minimum wage increases to $14.77 on January 1, 2021. We know how important this one-year delay would be to the Denver restaurant community. Please reach out to the Denver Councilmembers and tell them how essential this delay would be for your business.

In your message to Council, please share how this wage increase will impact your business. Consider sharing how many employees you would be forced to lay off, whether you will have to terminate employee benefits, and how this will impact the future of your business and your potential future growth. You can send your message through this link.

Upcoming Local Meetings that Impact Restaurants

On December 1, the cities of Edgewater, Erie, Morrison, Steamboat Springs, and Loveland will hold meetings in which they will discuss policy pertaining to restaurants. 

Click here for more information on the individual meetings, including agendas and attendee information.

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