DENVER – Colorado restaurants will have to limit indoor dining to either 50% of their maximum occupancy or 50 people, whichever is fewer, according to the finalized guidelines for the plan to begin allowing restaurants to reopen to dine-in options, which were unveiled Sunday.
The governor’s office announced Monday that restaurants can begin opening on Wednesday, May 27 with these guidelines in place. Establishments that do not serve food will be evaluated in June.
The finalized guidelines come after the state released draft guidelines last Tuesday, which restaurant owners then spent the week giving the state input on before the guidelines were finalized this weekend. Restaurants have spent days, or weeks, in some cases, preparing for when they can reopen.
Many of the guidelines haven’t changed since they were released in draft form, but there are some slight modifications – some of which have been foreshadowed in the variances granted to several larger counties Friday and Saturday that allowed them to reopen restaurants for dine-in options to varying degrees.
The guidelines will apply to any place where food is available for on-premise consumption from a licensed retail food establishment. They say that “other kinds of establishments that do not serve food will be evaluated in June.”
Restaurant owners will have to implement symptom monitoring and temperature monitoring systems “where possible” for employees. The guidelines say employees will be required to wear cloth face coverings during customer interactions, and gloves and face coverings whenever possible during meal prep and cleaning.
Only parties of eight or fewer people will be allowed to sit at a table at a time.
For outdoor dining, restaurants are being asked to work with their local authorities to gain authorization to expand their outdoor spaces for dining options. Customers will have to remain at least six feet apart, and all employees will be required to wear face coverings.
For indoor dining, the 50% occupancy or 50-person rule will apply, and all tables will need to be at least six feet apart. All employees will be required to wear face coverings. Restaurant owners are encouraged to open their windows and to not use the air conditioning to the extent they are possible.
Surfaces will be required to be deep cleaned and disinfected for every turnover, and customers will only be able to “mingle,” as the guidelines puts it, with their own parties.
Restaurant owners will have to encourage or require reservations at their establishments and communal seating, self-service and buffets will generally not be allowed. People waiting to eat will be asked to not congregate in entrance areas and advised to wait in their cars or elsewhere to be seated.
Restaurants are also advised to clearly mark 6-foot spacing in lines and on the ground to show how people should move about the restaurant, according to the guidelines.
Signage about hygiene and sanitation should be posted, and restaurants should remove games and dance floors where social distancing cannot be maintained or require high-touch surfaces to play.
The guidelines also say that restaurants should not use table cloths, should move to disposable or board menus and put hand sanitizer at the entrance of and throughout the restaurant.
Restaurant owners or manager are asked to put one employee per shift in charge of monitoring employees’ and customers’ adherence to the social distancing and hygienic guidelines. Managers and owners should also implement symptom monitoring where possible and are encouraged to report to the state’s Symptom Tracker.
They should also, according to the guidelines, try to keep staff interactions to the minimum, require employees and vendors to wear face coverings, and have employees wash their hands regularly or wear gloves.
Employers are encouraged to provide “high-quality face coverings for employees as much as possible,” according the guidelines.
Restaurants should provide customers an option to sign in to record their contact information in the event an employee or customer exposes another person so that contact tracing can be done.
Restaurants are also encouraged to continue curbside pickup and to request customers wear face coverings when they are not eating or drinking.
Owners and managers are also asked to consider refusing service to customers “who refuse to adhere to hygiene and physical distancing requirements,” the guidelines say.
Finally, restaurants will be required to notify and cooperate with their local public health agency on the next steps if there is a confirmed case among an employee or a customer, the guidelines say.
Polis said in a news conference Tuesday that many breweries and bars can operate under the same guidelines if they can keep their business from being “a social free for all” and can reasonably keep parties separated.
He also said that businesses could expand seating onto adjacent or non-adjacent private property if they receive permission from the owner, or if they can come to a business model with another nearby restaurant that is serving food.
He reiterated that the state was waiving regulations to allow local municipalities to change their rules about using sidewalks, parking lots and possibly streets to seat more guests outdoors in order to increase their full capacities beyond the 50% of indoor occupancy limit.
Colorado Restaurant Association Sonia Riggs said in a statement that the organization was pleased to see feedback from restaurateurs had been included in the finalized version.
"We're grateful to Governor Polis and his team for working quickly to get these guidelines out. We're glad to see that much of the feedback from the industry was integrated, including clarification around which types of establishments these guidelines apply to, clarification of social distancing guidelines between parties, practical guidance on gloves and handwashing, and more,” Riggs said. “We will be working with the industry to help them comply with these guidelines so they're ready to open as soon as Governor Polis gives the green light."