GOLDEN, Colo. — Beginning Saturday morning, six counties within the Denver metro area were allowed to increase indoor capacity at businesses like restaurants and gyms.
Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties moved from level orange to level yellow on the state's COVID-19 dial, allowing their restaurants and gyms to increase indoor capacity to 50% or 50 people, whichever is fewer.
The changes to the COVID-19 dial come amid a decline in hospitalizations and cases across Colorado. The state's seven-day average positivity rate has dipped from November and December highs above 12% to below 5% over the last week.
Some restaurant employees told Denver7 Saturday the changes are a sign of hope after a rough year.
“It's been a long, hard 10 months," Vanessa Teason, executive chef at Colorado + 49 Cidery & Pub in Golden, said.
She is excited to let more people inside her restaurant.
"We were 16.5 people last night, and today we're allowed 33," she said. "With cold weather, it makes a huge difference.”
More customers mean more business, allowing them to expand their menu and hire back some of their furloughed staff.
"We all genuinely love what we do and enjoy coming to work, so it's really hard when what you're passionate about you can't do and it's completely out of your control," Teason said.
At Old Capitol Grill and Smokehouse in Golden, the dial change won’t make a difference.
“It doesn't really affect us too much just because we are such a big building here," manager Tiffany Nelson said.
They were already allowing only 50 people inside at a time, but she hopes the move to yellow boosts consumer confidence.
“We're all wearing masks. We're all sanitizing. We have sanitizer stations. We are washing our hands constantly. So we just want to put that safety back into people so that they can come out and eat again," Nelson said.
Whether it’s a small mom-and-pop place or a bigger space, both Teason and Nelson hope customers come out to support them.
"We just hope that it goes in the right direction, that we're back open and busy for summer," Nelson said.