Owner frustrated over change in when restaurant workers can receive coronavirus vaccine

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Posted at 3:04 PM, Feb 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-28 19:20:56-05

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — A Colorado restaurant owner is one of many frustrated over the change to when restaurant workers are eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine.

Jim Armstrong owns Bender's Bar & Grill and said he was looking forward to the day his employees could get the shot.

"We were dancing in the streets right out there," he said.

In early February, the Governor's Office confirmed restaurant workers would be eligible to receive their vaccine alongside grocery store employees.

However, in an updated vaccine rollout schedule, restaurant workers were listed in Phase 1B.4. A phase that isn't expected to receive vaccines until late March, at the earliest, March 21.

It's a change the Colorado Restaurant Association said it was "shocked" by. A statement provided to Denver7, read the following.

“We have worked diligently to establish a positive working relationship with the Governor and his staff. We are shocked by this change. Just hours before the Governor’s press conference, we were assured multiple times from multiple people from the Governor’s office, including the Governor, that we would be in same phase as grocery workers. We obviously are disappointed in any further delays. Our primary concern is the health and safety of our workers, who provide essential meals for Coloradans, just as grocery workers do. Splitting grocery workers and restaurant workers into two phases makes zero sense. It’s helpful that we now have a target date of approximately March 21, which will help deliver much-needed certainty to the restaurant industry. Unfortunately, this is another example of the goal posts being moved for the restaurant industry. About half of restaurants say they will close in the next six months if they are not allowed to more fully open. We are looking to the Governor and his administration to offer certainty.”

Denver7 reached out to the Governor's Office for clarity on why restaurant workers had been moved to a lower phase in the roll out. Below is the statement a spokesperson provided.

“The Governor expects that the supply of vaccine will be enough to start on restaurant workers by March 21st along with other frontline essential workers, making Colorado one of the first states to make the vaccine available to restaurant workers and the Polis administration’s goal throughout this once in a century pandemic has always been to save lives while protecting the Colorado economy. Every Coloradan deserves the lifesaving vaccine and every Coloradan who wants it will get be able to get it soon, but we don’t receive enough for everyone to get it at once.“

Armstrong said the delay in vaccination for his employees was a let down.

"We were going to get the vaccine, great. It's all about safety. We were kind of feeling good about it and then, symbolically, a slap in the face," he said.

Now, he and his staff are left to wait, hoping for no more setbacks.

"We keep our place in line, we tread water, we survive," said Armstrong.