End to Six-Foot Distancing Requirement in Sight

Metro Denver area scheduled to eliminate six-foot distancing by August 15 (or earlier, if you're doing business in Douglas County).

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Woman wearing blue and white striped dress with arms open as if to hug someone.
Douglas County is welcoming restaurant diners with open arms and no social distancing. / Copyright: Roman Samborskyi

Big changes are coming for restaurants starting Friday, when the state gives up the COVID dial and relinquishes control to county health departments (with some exceptions, namely the state mask mandate). On the Front Range, Denver, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, Adams, and Arapahoe counties have all agreed to abide by a two-step plan that would allow restaurants to operate at full capacity—and with no six-foot spacing requirement!—on May 16. Douglas County is going rogue, allowing restaurants and bars to operate at 100 percent capacity with no restrictions immediately. Other Colorado counties will not doubt follow suit quickly, so stay tuned.

There’s also a webinar from the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment on how to deal with unemployment fraud (raise your hand if you’ve received a claim for yourself in the past month!) that—hopefully— won’t involve spending hours on the phone fruitlessly trying to reach a real, live person.

Finally, more info about the RRF grant program is being leaked (er, released). Keep reading for an unofficial draft application that will help you get your ducks in a row when the application window finally opens (“soon!”).

The following information comes from the CRA’s April 12 and 14 newsletters. Sign up to receive the full versions here. And take a gander at its Coronavirus Resource Center and Restaurant Worker’s Guide to the COVID-19 Vaccine for more info. 

Metro Counties Develop Regional Plan for COVID-19 Guidelines After State Dial Retires

As of Friday, April 16, the State will be retiring the CDPHE-issued COVID-19 State dial and turning authority of COVID-19 operating restrictions over to local public health departments. In response, the counties of Denver, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, Adams (Tri-County Health Department (TCHD))  and Arapahoe (TCHD) have announced a regional public health agreement. (Douglas County, the third county included in TCHD, has decided to opt out of the plan and set their own guidelines.) Each county’s public health order maintains the same timeline. This plan provides a clear path for restaurants in participating counties to eventually welcome 100% of their pre-pandemic guests, without social distancing requirements.

Here is the two-phased timeline the participating counties have agreed to follow:

Phase 1: April 16 – May 16

  • On April 16, counties will move to the next less restrictive level as defined by the State’s dial framework. That will be Level Blue for Denver, Broomfield, Boulder, Jefferson, and Adams, and Level Green for Arapahoe. 
  • Counties will not move levels again during this 30-day phase.
  • In Level Blue:
    • Restaurants can operate at up to 100% capacity with 6 feet between parties and must adhere to last call at 2 a.m. for all alcohol sales.
    • Bars that do not provide full meals can operate at up to 25% capacity or 75 people per room, whichever is fewer.
    • Indoor Unseated Events and Entertainment can accommodate 50% capacity or 175 people per room, whichever is fewer.
    • Indoor Seated Events and Entertainment can accommodate 100% capacity with 6-foot distancing between parties.
    • Outdoor Seated and Unseated Events and Entertainment can accommodate 100% capacity with 6-foot distancing between parties.
    • Large Events – defined as any indoor or outdoor event or gathering with more than 500 attendees – must submit plans to their county’s public health department. 
  • In Level Green:
    • Restrictions for restaurants in Level Green are removed, with the exception of 6-foot distancing between parties, which remains in effect.
    • Bars and indoor events must still adhere to a 50% capacity limit or a 500-person cap, whichever is fewer.
    • Outdoor events in Levels Green and Blue no longer have state-level capacity restrictions under the dial. Counties may choose to implement capacity restrictions on outdoor events at the local level.
  • The local and state mask orders are still in effect. Note: Denver issued a new mask order effective April 14. See below.

Phase 2: Observation Period: May 16 – August 15

  • On May 15, 2021, counties will move into the new Level Clear, which is subject to observation and may move into another, more restrictive level at any time based on the County’s rate of hospital admissions of County residents. 
  • While in Level Clear, businesses may operate at 100% capacity with no required mitigation strategies. This includes the removal of 6-foot distancing requirements in restaurants!
  • Statewide orders, including mask mandates, still apply. 

Find the full public health order for each county below:

  • Boulder
  • Broomfield
  • Denver has not yet listed its public health order, but we will share when it is released.
  • Jefferson (Jefferson County’s public health order also suspends the 5 Star Certification Program)
  • Tri-County (Adams and Arapahoe)

We are excited that this timeline provides a clear path to restaurants returning to full capacity, which you all have told us is a necessary milestone for our industry to begin recovering following 13 months of operational restrictions. As counties across the State navigate their post-dial plans, we will continue advocating for policies that will facilitate a strong restaurant recovery.

Douglas County Removes COVID-19 Restaurant Restrictions as of April 16

Following the retirement of the State COVID-19 dial on Friday, April 16, Douglas County will no longer require businesses to adhere to State or Tri-County Health Department guidance related to COVID-19. Businesses will be able to adopt their own operational practices based on what they designate is best for their business, their guests, and their staff.

Guests and employees of Douglas County restaurants must still adhere to the statewide mask mandate which requires masks in indoor public spaces in all counties except those with a COVID rate that would qualify them for Level Green on the State’s dial.

You can read Douglas County’s full update here.

Denver Issues Updated Mask Guidance

Today, Denver Mayor Hancock announced a new mask order for Denver County, effective immediately. 

  • Masks are no longer required in public outdoor spaces. However, the county still recommends their usage when less than six feet from individuals outside of your household.
  • Masks are still required in all public indoor spaces for people age three and older.
  • This order will be in effect for 30 days and will be reevaluated based on the County’s COVID-19 incidence rates, positivity rates, and hospitalizations. 

Read the updated mask executive order here.

CRB Show Virtual Education Session: Navigating Unemployment Fraud for Restaurant Operators: Wednesday, April 21, 2 to 3 p.m.

Brought to you in partnership with the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment (CDLE) and our legal resources center partners Fisher & Phillips, LLC, this important webinar will address the dos and don’ts of navigating the rampant unemployment insurance fraud taking place in Colorado since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically tailored for restaurant operators, this session will offer background on the current fraud landscape; discuss what the CDLE is doing to address it; explain best practices for reporting fraud; and cover what restaurant operators need to know—and do—to protect their businesses and their employees. Questions should be submitted in advance, which you can do via the quick survey below.

Wednesday, April 21 | 2 p.m. | Register here.

To submit a question for the panel, fill out this short survey. 

Status Update: Restaurant Revitalization Fund

A quick update on where things stand on the Restaurant Revitalization Fund Grant (RRFG) program: We and our partners at the National Restaurant Association have had ongoing conversations with the SBA since the American Jobs Plan was signed into law. 

Timing: We anticipate the release of an official RRFG application, an informational SBA website, and a program guide as soon as this week or next week. Once the application is released, restaurants will have time to receive and understand the form before the application process begins. Operators will have until March 11, 2023, to spend their RRF grants.

IndicatorsHere is an unofficial draft RRFG application that has not been publicly released by the SBA. This information helped inform the Association’s FAQ, but is still under review by the SBA. We share this to provide context for restaurant operators, especially as ambitious consultants or “grant writers” have begun offering services to navigate unforeseen grant materials. The latest, most useful information will be coming from the National Restaurant Association soon – we’ll pass that on to you as soon as we receive it. 

Efficiency: The RRFG program is expected to run on a government platform that processes grant applications similar to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The government platform that operates PPP has approved nearly four million loans in 2021. While RRFG is a grant program, not a loan program, the PPP platform provides assurance that the system will be conditioned to meet the tremendous demand of restaurants. This is a separate platform from the SBA’s Shuttered Venues Operator Grant program, which had to temporarily shut down last week due to technical problems.

We know that funds will be in high demand and will be critical to your business’s pandemic recovery. We will continue to provide timely updates on how to receive the grants. Please reach out to info@corestaurant.org with any questions.

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

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