The Devil’s in the Details

Stock up on Old World wine and whiskey before the end of June, and see what the state's latest COVID dial changes mean for you.

Top view of cheese platter with variety of soft and hard cheese on wooden board, plus glass of red wine.
Starting March 5, tariffs on European wine, whiskey, cheese and other food products have been suspended for four months. / Valentyn Volkov ©

As Colorado’s vaccination rate continue to rise (slowly), so do restaurant capacities. The Colorado Restaurant Association issued guidance on the most recent changes to the state’s public health order. While 6-foot distancing remains the rule, effectively limiting many restaurants’ capacities due to geographical footprint, over half of Colorado counties are now in Level Blue, and 5-star certified businesses in Level Yellow counties can operate in Level Blue. That means last call is pretty much back to normal (1 or 2 a.m.) in many places across the state.

There’s also a guide to the current status of pending state legislation (if you don’t want to be thrown in the stir for using Styrofoam next year, speak up now); an update on the American Rescue Plan (which includes restaurant-specific relief as well as additional individual stimulus payments); an upcoming CRA webinar on starting up your own ghost kitchen; and news on a temporary suspension of EU tariffs.

The following information comes from the CRA’s March 5 and March 8 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.

Amended Statewide Public Health Order

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has released amendments to the State COVID-19 Public Health Order, making changes to the state’s dial that will impact restaurants, indoor events, performances, and 5 star-certified businesses. These updates took effect yesterday, March 7. Restaurants are permitted to immediately begin adhering to the new guidelines and do not have to wait for permission from their local municipality or health department.

Since we sent this update earlier today, we have received several questions. Please see our clarifying remarks below:

  • The updated public health order was signed yesterday, March 7, and will remain in effect for 30 days. Meaning, the updated guidelines are currently in effect unless your local public health agency decides to enact guidelines more restrictive than the state. 
  • The 6 feet of social distancing requirement between groups remains in effect, even for 5 Star-certified businesses.
  • We are aware of the recent CDC guidelines related to masks and individuals who have been fully vaccinated. Please note that the state executive order requiring masks in restaurants remains in effect, and has not changed since the CDC guidelines were issued. As a business, you must offer a reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities under the ADA (such as curbside pickup or delivery), but there is nothing that prohibits you from having a “no shoes, no shirt, no mask, no service” policy within your facility. In fact, we encourage you to continue these policies, even with the newly released CDC guidance, in order to remain in compliance with state executive orders.

Here is a summary of restaurant-relevant changes to the levels on the dial:

  • Changes to Level Blue:
    • 50% of posted occupancy or restaurants may expand capacity to 225 people without using the distancing calculator, per room – whichever is less.
    • Restaurants may extend their last call time to 2 a.m.
    • Indoor Events in Level Blue may expand capacity to 225 for seated events without using the distancing space calculator.
  • Changes to Level Yellow:
    • 50% of posted occupancy or restaurants may expand capacity to 150 people without using the distancing calculator, per room – whichever is less.
    • Restaurants may extend their last call time to 1 a.m.
    • Indoor Events in Level Yellow may expand capacity to 150 for seated events without using the distancing space calculator.
  • Changes to Level Orange:
    • Restaurants may extend their last call time to midnight.
  • Changes to Level Red:
    • Restaurants may extend their last call time to 10 p.m.

View the guidelines for each level here.

Here are the general updates that will impact restaurants:

  • A disease incidence metric buffer was implemented that allows counties to exceed their level’s disease incidence metric without changing levels, as long as the county’s numbers do not exceed the minimum of the next, more restrictive, level by more than 15% for 5 consecutive days.
  • Performers who are wearing masks can be a minimum of 12 feet distanced from spectators. The PHO maintains that performers not wearing masks must be a minimum of 25 feet distanced.

Here are the updates to the 5 Star Certification Program:

  • When a 5 star-certified business is operating at the dial level one above the where the county is operating, they are able to operate using both the restrictions and allowance (e.g. last call time) for the next less restrictive level.
  •  5 star-certified businesses in Level Blue can expand person caps by 50 people above the Level Blue person caps.

Read the full public health order here. Reach out to us at with any questions.

Legislative Update

HB 1027 Continue Alcohol Beverage Takeout and Delivery, as amended, would continue the allowance to offer to-go alcohol from restaurants for five years. That allowance is currently set to sunset in July of this year. HB 1027 would also increase the limits of alcohol a restaurant can sell for takeout and delivery to two bottles of wine, two six packs of beer, and one liter of spirits per transaction. This bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Finance committee, but has not been placed on the calendar. CRA Supports.

SB 082 Alcohol Beverage Festival For Tastings and Sales would allow liquor licensees like restaurants, manufacturers, taverns, etc. to hold up to nine festivals annually. Under current law, this allowance is reserved only for wine manufactures and limited wineries. The Senate Business Labor and Technology Committee referred the amended bill to the Senate Finance Committee. The bill has not been placed on the calendar yet. CRA Supports as long as restaurant industry licenses are included in the bill.

HB 1162 Management of Plastic Products would restrict and/or regulate the use of single use plastics. If enacted into law, the bill would ban the use of all polystyrene foam (Styrofoam) and single use plastic bags by 2022. The legislation would also impose a 10-cent fee on all paper bags by 2021. The bill would also eliminate the preemption in existing law that prohibits local governments from regulating plastics by 2023. CRA Opposes.

SB 035 Restrictions on Third-Party Food Delivery Services would prohibit non-partner agreement activities between restaurants and third-party delivery companies such as GrubHub, UberEats, and DoorDash. Meaning, if the bill is enacted into law, third-party delivery companies would be prohibited from conducting takeout/delivery services for a restaurant and/or using the restaurant menu and information without the restaurant’s express written consent. This bill was introduced in the Senate and is assigned to the Business Labor and Technology committee. CRA Supports.

SB 091 Credit Transaction Charge Limitations would allow retailers like restaurants to impose a surcharge against a person who pays with a credit card to cover the credit card processing fees associated with that transaction. This bill was introduced in the Senate and will be heard in the Senate Business Labor and Technology committee on March 8. CRA Supports.

SB 130 Local Authority for Business Personal Property Tax Exemption would allow counties, municipalities, and special districts to exempt up to 100% of business personal property from the levy and collection of property taxation for the 2021 property tax year. This bill was introduced in the House and will be heard in the State Affairs committee on March 9. CRA Supports.

How Can You Help?

Please help our advocacy efforts by responding to our March survey here. When you see emails from us asking for your response to a call to action, please take the time to respond to them. If you get a call from us asking you to testify on a bill in committee, please consider making the trip to the Capitol. We have the potential to be tremendously effective this year, and with a unified and loud industry voice, we could see some of these legislative goals become reality.

Join Us for a Colorado Restaurant and Bar Show Virtual Education Session: Creative Ways to Survive the Pandemic: Implement a Ghost Kitchen!

Join us Wednesday, March 10, at 2 p.m. for the next installment of the Colorado Restaurant and Bar Show: Virtual Education Series!

During this pandemic, we have all had to get creative to maximize revenue streams. Join us as we discuss Ghost/Virtual kitchens and how they have helped restaurants enhance their business even in this time of crisis. Sean Huggard of Blue Island Oyster Bar will share his experience with Blue Tide Tacos, a takeout and delivery concept operated out of Blue Island. Beth Gruitch of Crafted Concepts will share her experience as they launched lunchtime pop-up Flavor Dojo in response to the Pandemic. We’ll also hear from Nili Malach Poynter of ChefReady Virtual Kitchens to address the practical factors to consider regarding ghost kitchens. There will be time for Q&A.

Wednesday, March 10 | 2 p.m. | Register here

Senate Heard Our Message and Passed American Rescue Plan; Restaurant Funding Increased to $28.6 Billion!

This weekend, the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan. Notably, Senate Democrats increased the size of the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, totaling the restaurant-targeted relief package to $28.6 billion. The bill still has to go back to the House of Representatives for a final vote. It is anticipated that this vote will take place March 9, barring unforeseen roadblocks. Following passage in the House, the bill will land on President Biden’s desk for final approval. 

For a year now, the National Restaurant Association, along with their state partners, have been pushing for dedicated funding to restaurants along with other relief tools such as creation of the Paycheck Protection Program, expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit, and defeating efforts to eliminate the tip credit.  

We are thrilled to see the restaurant-related wins included in this version of the bill, including the expanded funding in the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, expansion of the Employee Retention Tax Credit, language in the Payroll Protection Program that allows restaurants to take out higher loans than other businesses, and the exclusion of the proposal to eliminate the tip credit on a national level. We look forward to prompt passage of this bill and will continue to update you each step of the way. 

To learn more about the restaurant-wins included in this bill, read this piece from The Washington Post.

Tariffs Suspended on EU Goods Including Wine, Whiskey & More

On Friday, March 5, the United States and European Union (EU) agreed to suspend all tariffs on goods imported from the EU. The four-month suspension will result in the removal of tariffs on agricultural, industrial, and consumer products worth $11.5 billion including wine, whiskey, cheese, olives, nuts, and other food items from the EU.

This is welcome news to the restaurant industry, as many restaurants have been greatly impacted by this price increase in product. The National Restaurant Association has worked over the last year with other impacted trade groups to end these tariffs. Removing these tariffs is a big win for the restaurant industry and will help restaurants begin to recover amid the pandemic and resulting shutdowns. 

Suspension of the tariffs also marks a first step towards improving our trade partnerships with the EU and will allow the time and space to create a more permanent negotiated solution.

We, in partnership with the National Restaurant Association, will continue to work to ensure that no additional tariffs are put in place and that restaurants have access to free and open trade.  

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