A Real Last Call and Other Bar and Restaurant Changes

In case you've forgotten what 2 a.m. looks like...
In case you've forgotten what 2 a.m. looks like... Westword Staff
On March 7, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment surprised the restaurant industry by adjusting the current Colorado COVID Dial to ease restrictions. The biggest change? Pushing last call for alcohol back to the standard 2 a.m., in certain circumstances, after a year of early cut-off times. That's great news for both night owls and watering holes looking for a cash infusion.

Right now, the City and County of Denver is operating at Level Yellow on the dial, and with the new rules, restaurants (and bars that offer food menus) can serve alcohol until 1 a.m. For those establishments that have earned 5 Star Certification by adhering to specific health and safety measures (here's a list of all of them), last call moves to 2 a.m. Remember the good old days of staying out past school-night bedtime?

Most metro-area counties are operating at Level Yellow, with the exception of Jefferson County, which is currently at Level Blue. That means that all Jefferson County bars and restaurants can serve booze until 2 a.m. — and that extra time could result in a much-needed revenue boost with the approach of St. Patrick's Day. However, Jefferson County restaurants with 5 Star Certifications must follow Level Blue restrictions for now, rather than moving to Level Green.

This round of lessened restrictions runs for thirty days, so things could change again after April 6. In the meantime, while restaurants are held to 50 percent capacity, those operating at Level Yellow can expand to 50 percent or 150 people (whichever is less), and those at Level Blue can go up to 225 people.

With more and more Coloradans receiving the COVID vaccine and the Centers for Disease Control releasing recommendations for those who have been vaccinated, it might be easy to assume that everything will quickly return to pre-pandemic times. But COVID cases are still averaging well above what they were at any point between last March and September, so we're not out of the woods.

And as important, restaurant workers have not been given early access to their shots (unlike agriculture and grocery workers, who became eligible on March 5 as part of the 1B.3 group) and will have to wait until the newly created group 1B.4 begins, which could be as soon as March 21. Until then, restaurant work remains one of the most exposed professions, since eateries are the only businesses where the public can hang out for long periods of time without masks.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation