Feeling Blue

Certified businesses in 16 counties can now operate at level blue (which mainly means last call is now midnight), plus permanent to-go alcohol has been dealt a big blow.

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Illustration of restaurant takeout containers with chopsticks, a paper delivery bag, and two bottles of beer on coral colored background.
Expanding takeout and delivery booze is facing tough opposition in Colorado's legislature. / Eduardo Nuez Prota © 123RF.com

The Colorado Restaurant Association announced yesterday that businesses with 5 Star Certification can now operate in Level Blue. While that doesn’t increase capacity for all but the largest restaurants, it does push last call back to midnight, as god intended. In less exciting news, the bill proposing permanent to-go booze was scaled back to expire in just five years. It’s facing a fight from liquor stores, so reach out to your state legislators now.

There’s also a call to action on the federal front, as the American Rescue Act (which contains the Restaurant Revitalization fund) is currently being debated in the Senate, and will likely be voted on this weekend. And watch out for jury duty scams targeting restaurant management, as there have been a rash of them around Denver.

The following information comes from the CRA’s March 1 and 3 newsletters. Sign up to receive the full versions here. And take a gander at its Coronavirus Resource Center and COVID-19 Reopening Resources for general info.

5 Star Business in Level Yellow Now Allowed to Operate in Blue

Colorado has officially achieved its goal of vaccinating 70% of people age 70 and older. As of March 3, 5 Star-certified businesses in Level Yellow communities can start operating at Level Blue guidelines. 

Level Blue guidelines include: 

  • 50% capacity or 175 people indoors per room (which ever is less) with 6 feet of distancing or up to 225 per room with the space calculator
  • Midnight on-premises last call for alcohol service 

Click here for the full list of Level Blue guidelines

If you are a 5 Star-certified restaurant in one of the below counties you DO NOT need to wait for approval from any local jurisdiction or receive any additional inspection to start operating in Level Blue. The counties with 5 Star programs that now allow for operation in Level Blue are as follows:

  • Adams
  • Arapahoe
  • Boulder 
  • Broomfield
  • Clear Creek
  • Denver
  • Douglas
  • El Paso
  • Elbert
  • Garfield
  • Gilpin
  • Jefferson
  • Larimer
  • Pitkin
  • Summit
  • Weld

The Governor also said plans are being laid to administer by Sunday all 45,500 Johnson & Johnson doses expected to arrive in Colorado this week. With this additional vaccine source, and increased supplies of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Colorado anticipates approximately another million-dose increase to 18 million doses, which represents about 16,900 additional doses for Colorado. While these numbers represent the most up-to-date federal vaccine forecast, these numbers are subject to change. The State has not yet announced any change in timeline for restaurant workers’ access to the vaccine, but we will keep you updated and continue to fight for prioritized access for our industry.

Show Your Support of the Alcohol To-Go Bill Today!

As introduced, House Bill 21-1027 by Representatives Roberts (D-Steamboat) and Larson (R-Ken Caryl) would have made the sale of alcohol for takeout and delivery from an on-premises liquor license (Restaurants, Brewpubs, Distillery Pubs, Vintner’s Restaurants, Taverns) permanent in the State of Colorado. HB 1-27 was heard in its first committee this afternoon. The bill was amended to continue the allowance for five years rather than in perpetuity and to increase the amount of wine, beer, and spirits that restaurants can sell after the state of emergency ends. It passed out of the House Business Affairs and Labor committee unanimously with a 13-0 vote. We still need your help reaching out to members of the Colorado General Assembly TODAY to tell them what this additional source of revenue has meant to your business and how this will help with the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are facing fierce opposition to the proposal; we cannot get it across the finish line without industry outreach.

House Bill 21-1027 would extend the sale of alcohol for takeout and delivery from an on-premises liquor license for five years in the State of Colorado. Alcohol for takeout and delivery has been a much-needed form of additional revenue for many restaurants as they suffer through capacity restrictions, low consumer confidence in dining out, and dining room closures. Colorado’s restaurants have shown that alcohol for takeout and delivery can be done in a safe way. Additionally, the public wants this. In a public poll conducted in 2020, 85% of Coloradans supported alcohol for takeout and delivery from a restaurant. As takeout and delivery options for dining continue to grow in Colorado, making alcohol for takeout and delivery permanent is the only logical step.

The recent draft of the proposal specifies:

  • The licensee may sell an alcohol beverage in a sealed container and deliver the alcohol to customers OR the licensee may allow a customer to purchase and remove the sealed alcohol beverage via takeout.
  • All deliveries must be made by a person who is twenty-one years of age or older and an employee of the licensee.
  • When the state of emergency is over, on-premises retailers would be limited in their total sales of take-out and delivery alcohol annually to 50% of their total food and beverage sales and individual orders would also be limited to specific amounts.
  • The bill has also been amended to increase the limits on the amount of alcohol you can sell outside of the state of emergency. With the newly adopted amendment, restaurants can sell two bottles of wine, two six packs of beer, and one liter of spirits.

Our industry needs to turn out in force in support of this legislation. According to our January survey, 93% of Colorado’s restaurants say that they are making revenue from alcohol to-go and two in three restaurants say that alcohol to-go is important to their survival. As you all know, our industry has been decimated and any bit of additional revenue could be make-or-break for struggling restaurants. 

Reach out to your representatives here.

White House Response to National Restaurant Association Letter for Federal Restaurant Relief and How You Can Help

Federal targeted-restaurant relief is so close, but we need your help getting it across the finish line.

Almost one year has passed since indoor dining was shut down and restaurants began an economic freefall. Since then, we have been clear that a restaurant-specific solution is needed to save our community restaurants. That solution – the $25 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) – is incredibly close to landing on President Biden’s desk. The Senate is about to take up the American Rescue Plan, but we can’t take for granted that the RRF is a done deal.  

Yesterday, the National Restaurant Association released its sixth national survey of its membership – which many of you contributed data towards from your restaurants. The results speak for themselves:

  • 32% of operators think it will be 7-12 months before business conditions return to normal for their restaurant, while 29% think it will be more than a year. An additional 10% of operators say business conditions will never return to normal for their restaurant.
  • 14% of restaurant operators say they will “probably” or “definitely” be closed within three months if there are no additional relief packages from the federal government.

The National Restaurant Association wrote Congress yesterday to share our findings and urge action. The White House last night issued a press release about our letter, providing fantastic amplification of our industry’s message and our efforts for the past year. 

View the White House response here.

Please click here to urge Congress to pass the American Rescue Plan and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Want to learn more?

Join the National Restaurant Association on March 4 at 11 a.m. MST for a in-depth webinar that will describe the interplay between the Paycheck Protection Program, the Employee Retention Tax Credit and soon the Restaurant Revitalization Fund – there is a lot of overlap and ways to maximize relief from each and what is – and isn’t – allowed as restaurant operators utilize these critical measures. There will be a Q&A portion to hear from you directly. If you can’t join, feel free to still register and you will receive a weblink to watch a recording 48 hours later. 

Register here.

What else can you do to help?

  • Show your opposition to the elimination of the tip credit in the Raise the Wage Act here.
  • Sign your name to show your support of the Blueprint for State and Local Restaurant Recovery here.
  • Speak out in support of the RESTAURANTS Act here.

Alert: Restaurant-Targeted Scam

On March 1, we were made aware that the Denver Police Department has received multiple reports of scam calls targeting restaurants managers and staff members. The scammers have called restaurants asking to speak to the manager, and tells them there is a warrant out for their arrest due to missed jury duty. The caller tells the victim they must either turn themselves in to their local jail or pay off their bond by purchasing a gift card, requesting card numbers and codes. The scammers on some occasions have asked for a copy of the victims drivers license and Social Security card.  

The police will not call advising a person they have an active arrest warrant and no government entity will request payment via gift cards.  No person should ever give their Social Security number to anyone over the phone nor should they send a copy of their drivers license to anyone they cannot verify their true identity.  

If you receive one of these calls at your restaurant, or personally, please report the phone number to your local police station.

Talk to DiningOut! Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com

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