CRA: What Color Are We Today?

When red is the new orange, is orange the new yellow? Not so much. Plus, Aurora gives out grants and a wealth of webinars.

Abstract art canvas background with brush texture and red, orange and yellow colors.
What color are you operating under? Any of the above. / miss_j ©

Following last week’s surprise news that Level Red restaurants can open in Level Orange (and the ensuring flurry of clarifications and sorta-kinda-takebacks), there are plenty of details you need to be aware. Keep reading for a long, long list of them.

Certain Aurora restaurants can apply for grants of up to $10,000 through January 14, and everyone can take in a handful of predictions about the incoming Presidential administration. And mark your schedule for webinars on Denver’s outdoor versus indoor dining requirments, getting a head start on PPP loan applications; the Colorado Restaurant Association’s weekly town halls; and municipal meetings affecting restaurants in Aurora, San Miguel, Steamboat Springs, Broomfield, Centennial, and Parker.

The following information comes from the CRA’s January 1 and 4 newsletters. Sign up to receive the full version here. And take a gander at its Coronavirus Resource Center and on our Covid-19 Reopening Resources for general info.

Level Red Restaurants Allowed to Operate In Level Orange

ALL counties that were in Level Red are allowed to operate under the Level Orange restrictions starting January 4, 2021. You do not need permission or a health inspection in order to open at Level Orange restrictions, nor do you need to wait for any further official announcement from the Governor or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) before opening – CDPHE sent notice of the change to local officials last week. We’ve heard from some of you that your local public health officials are saying they need further confirmation from the state before allowing you to open at 25% indoor capacity. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) confirmed with us that these counties do not need any additional information, and all restaurants in those counties are permitted to open at level orange restrictions. CDPHE is working to spread the word to those counties.

As a reminder, Level Orange restrictions stipulate:

  • 25% of capacity or up to 50 people indoors per room, whichever is less. A room is defined as four walls and a door. Rooms on two separate floors separated by a staircase (not just a few steps) are also counted as separate spaces.
  • Party size: No more than 10 people per table.
  • Number of households per party: There are no restrictions on how many households can dine together in the state guidance, although some counties may choose to enforce tighter restrictions. For example, Summit County has a local public health order prohibiting more than two households from dining together in a restaurant.
  • Last call for alcohol sales moves to 10 p.m. for dine-in and takeout service. Last Call was defined from liquor enforcement as when you can order your drinks – not when they are served. So, for example, if a drink is ordered and recorded in your POS system at 9:55 p.m., it can be delivered at 10:05 p.m. and the guest can finish consuming it after that. (NOTE: Some counties have opted to be more restrictive. Check with your county on their last call requirements – for example, Summit County is restricting alcohol consumption and possession at 9:30 p.m.) Restaurants still need to use appropriate judgement to ensure customers are not being over-served after 10 p.m.
  • Delivery of alcohol can continue until 2 a.m.
  • Spacing: Six-foot spacing between parties.
  • Bar seating is allowed as long as you are not preparing drinks or food closer than six feet from guests (this includes tap handles, wells, locations where glassware is stored, handwashing sinks, and anything else used to prepare food and drinks), and parties are spaced six feet apart.
  • Face Masks: Pursuant to ​Executive Order D 2020 138​, as amended and extended,​ ​facial coverings are required to be worn by customers when not seated for dining. Restaurants should consider refusing service to customers who refuse to adhere to hygiene and distancing requirements.

Restaurants should adhere to all other requirements, such as requiring employees to wear masks at all times, sanitizing high touch surfaces frequently, maintaining six feet of spacing between parties waiting for a table, limiting gatherings indoors of customers waiting for tables, and requiring customers to wear masks while not at their table.

You can read the most recent Public Health Order related to Level Orange here – find restaurant guidance on page 12 and full restaurant guidance in Appendix H on page 54.

How do I know where my county falls on the scale? 

For a list of counties and their current dial levels, go here. (If you are in RED on this dial, you may go to ORANGE.)

How does this change impact those in the 5 Star Certification Program?

One of the most common questions we are hearing is whether 5 Star-certified restaurants located in counties that were in RED, and will now be moved to ORANGE while their metrics are still technically in RED, can open in YELLOW. According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE), they cannot.  This means that any restaurant that was approved for the 5 Star program in a county that was moved to level orange must continue to operate under level orange guidelines. They DO NOT automatically move to level yellow.

  • As described in the ​policy framework​ for 5 Star, a county must actually meet their level’s metrics in order to operate in the next least-restrictive level. This is because, for example, if a county’s metrics are technically in RED, but a business is operating in YELLOW, then it would be operating two levels up, not just one.
  • Some counties with 5 Star programs are quickly approaching or achieving ORANGE level metrics, bolstered by strong public health actions and trends and strong compliance from the business community.
  • The framework also typically requires a 2-week trend in ORANGE-level metrics in order for 5 Star businesses to open in YELLOW.
  • However, as all counties that are RED move to ORANGE, ​CDPHE is now allowing counties that have​ ​already sustained a ​7-day trend​ in ORANGE and who are operating a 5 Star program will be allowed to open those certified businesses in YELLOW. ​We are currently working to find out which counties operating 5 Star programs currently or will soon qualify and will let you know as soon as we find out. Therefore, CDPHE is recommending that if you are a 5-Star business, you continue to operate under those more stringent guidelines in order to take advantage of a possible move in the coming days.
  • All non-5 Star certified businesses must remain in ORANGE.
  • Counties that have yet to sustain a 7-day trend in ORANGE metrics that have a 5 Star program will need to wait until they achieve a 7-day trend in ORANGE before those businesses can move to YELLOW.
  • CDPHE will actively monitor if this is successful, and explore other instances in their policy where 7-day metrics may be more applicable than 14-day metrics as they walk the line between public health and economic response. 

Please know that details are changing daily. If we get more and/or different information, we will notify you. 

Click here to see the letter that CDPHE sent to local public health officials last week.

We know the uncertainty is frustrating. We are frustrated too. We are working hard to get answers for you as quickly as possible.

Webinar, Wednesday, January 6: Denver Outdoor vs. Indoor Space Guidelines

Join CRA and EatDenver, in partnership with the City of Denver, as we discuss the definition of indoor vs. outdoor spaces (for your outdoor seating areas) and how they are defined for tents, igloos, and other outdoor enclosures.  We will be joined by various city and department representatives including Dominic Vaiana (Excise and License), Scott Prisco (Community Planning and Development), Nicole Edwards (Department of Transportation and Infrastructure), and Captain Steve Holtz (Fire Department), who will be clarifying the state’s guidance on outdoor seating rules.

There will be plenty of time for Q&A.  

Wednesday, January 6 | 2 p.m. | Register here

Webinar, Friday, January 8: Next Round of PPP Funding – What You Need to Know

Join the legal team from Messner Reeves as they review the next round of PPP funding – everything you need to know, including:

  • How to apply – application changes to watch out for
  • How to calculate monthly payroll to determine loan amount
  • How to determine the 300 total employee eligibility threshold – for independents and franchisees
  • The 60/40 rules for loan expenses, and expanded non-payroll uses like PPE, updates to enable social distancing, etc.
  • Employee Retention Tax Credit update
  • Next steps/considerations for PPP forgiveness

There will be time for Q&A. 

Friday, January 8  |  2 p.m.  |  Register here

Aurora Minimum Wage Stakeholder Meeting

Aurora restaurateurs, please join us for a stakeholder discussion about the Aurora minimum wage increase proposal. We will be giving a brief summary of what has transpired so far, what we anticipate to see next, and what we can proactively do as a business community. Your feedback is greatly needed on how this proposal will impact your business. This meeting is for Aurora restaurateurs ONLY, and is off the record and not for attribution. We will not be publishing the recording.

Thursday, January 7 | 2 p.m. | Join here

COVID-19 Update & Town Hall With the CRA Team

Join us for ongoing COVID-19 updates and town hall discussions with Sonia Riggs and the CRA government affairs team, Nick Hoover and Mollie Steinemann. Our team will spend time discussing our current efforts at all levels of government, fill you in on other ways we are working to assist the industry, inform you on any pertinent industry updates, address updates on your suggestions from our last meeting, and then open the floor to your questions, feedback, and comments. These meetings are for industry ONLY, and are off the record and not for attribution. We will not be publishing the recordings.

Join the Zoom meeting here | Meeting ID: 816 0136 4157 | Passcode: 892283

5 Star State Certification Program County Guide

We are beginning to see restaurants reopen their indoor dining rooms at a limited capacity in counties with approved 5 Star State Certification Programs. Counties interested in implementing the 5 Star State Certification Program must submit a variance application for State approval. Once approved, the county can then launch its application for businesses. Interested businesses can apply for the program through their local county application system. Approved restaurants can then utilize the capacity guidelines and last call hours of the next, less restrictive dial level.

We will continue to provide an updated list of counties with approved 5 Star State Certification Programs and how to find details on the specifics of the program and application process in each county:

You can also access our 5 Star County Guide on our website here. You can read more about the 5 Star State Certification Program here.

Aurora Restaurant Relief Grant Program

Starting January 4, eligible restaurants in Aurora who have not received AER (Aurora Economic Relief, Aurora Economic Recovery or Aurora Economic Resiliency) funding in 2020 are invited to apply for financial assistance from the city’s new Aurora Restaurant Relief Grant Program. The program will allocate $1 million in Adams and Arapahoe county CARES Act dollars to provide economic assistance to Aurora restaurants experiencing financial stress or disrupted operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. This program will provide grants up to $10,000 per eligible Aurora restaurant to meet business rent and payroll expenses with appropriate documentation demonstrating need as a result of COVID-19 impacts.

Grant applications are due by Thursday, January 14, and grant awards will be dispersed by the end of January.

Read the full eligibility requirements and view the application here.

Local Meetings Impacting Restaurants

This week, the cities and counties of Dillon, San Miguel, Steamboat Springs, Broomfield, Centennial, and Parker are hosting meetings that will discuss policies impacting restaurants in those jurisdictions. 

Click here to view the agendas and find attendance information for each meeting.

5 Things Employers Can Expect From the Biden Administration in 2021 – Advice From Fisher & Phillips

From our partners at Fisher & Phillips: The pandemic and government shutdowns/restrictions continue to have a devastating effect on hospitality employers after a catastrophic 2020. As the industry works to recover in 2021, it looks increasingly likely that hospitality employers will have to navigate further challenges in the new year as the Biden administration takes charge. 

Fisher & Phillips has put together a list of the top five issues we can expect from a new administration. Click here to view the full article. 

Minimum Wage Increases Went Into Effect January 1

On another note, as a reminder, minimum wage in Colorado increased to $12.32/hour (tipped wage is $9.30/hour) and $14.77 in Denver (tipped wage is $11.75). A number of additional laws also went into effect, and you should now be in compliance. You can read about all changes here

Talk to DiningOut! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to


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