BOULDER, Colo. — On Friday, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approved Boulder County's application for the state's 5 Star certification program.
With this approval, certain businesses, like restaurants and gyms, will be able to submit an application for certification, allowing them to operate at 50% indoor capacity.
Currently, because Boulder County is in level orange of the state's COVID-19 dial, they're able to operate only at 25%.
The owner of Walnut Cafe, a breakfast staple in Boulder, said the pandemic -- and the resulting capacity limits -- have dramatically affected her restaurant's sales.
“None of us have ever seen anything like this. It's crazy," Dana Derichsweiler said Monday. "What's saving us is, you know, the extended outdoor seating and a mild winter.”
The restaurant has been operating for nearly four decades, but even a place as popular as this has had trouble weathering the pandemic.
Its location in Lafayette is now permanently closed, and its South Broadway location in Boulder is temporarily closed, or "hibernating," as Derichsweiler puts it.
The company went from having 93 employees to just 24. All of them work at the Walnut Street location.
"It's been devastating this year," Derichsweiler said.
She hopes things take a different turn by applying for Boulder County's 5 Star Certification Program.
“I still don't know that we'll hit our capacity, but at least we have the option and we know that we'll have more we'll have more seats.”
Getting Boulder County ready for the 5 Star program has been a months-long, collaborative process, according to Corine Waldau, senior director for economic vitality at Boulder Chamber.
"[The 5 Star program] is a game changer for their ability to operate and to make money, especially during the winter months, so we really wanted to get this in place as quickly as we could," she said.
Boulder Chamber, Longmont Economic Development Partnership, Boulder County Comissioners' Office, and Boulder County Public Health worked with multiple municipalities to make it happen.
"We now have seen very clearly that our businesses are doing a really great job of following public health orders, and this is their opportunity to prove that and get rewarded," Waldau said.
After a business applies and an inspector finds they've met the certification program's criteria, they can increase capacity limits. Businesses can also display a decal that shows customers they're 5 Star certified.
Derichsweiler believes this will help get customers through the door because it'll show her restaurant took extra steps to keep everyone safe.
“We have a really loyal, regular customers … they trust us and they know us," she said. "They know not only are we doing everything to protect our staff but we're doing everything to protect them.”
Boulder County businesses can begin applying for the certification beginning Friday, Feb 5.