City and State Offer More Reopening Guidelines — but No Date

When will we be able to do this again?
When will we be able to do this again? Danielle Lirette
The last two days were expected to bring big news from the city and state on proposed regulations and requirements that will allow restaurants and bars to slowly reopen to in-house customers. But the two biggest questions — when restaurants will be able to reopen and at what capacity — have yet to be answered.

On May 18, the City of Denver website introduced a new application form that allows businesses to submit proposals for expanded outdoor seating. And on May 19, city officials held a town-hall meeting in conjunction with the Colorado Restaurant Association to clarify what restaurants could and couldn't request. The biggest takeaways were that everyone still has to wait for the go-ahead from Governor Jared Polis before any outdoor seating can reopen, that community groups such as business improvement districts and multi-vendor retail centers can put in their own proposals, and that businesses won't be able to share outdoor space.

For group proposals (for example, if a district with multiple restaurants wants to close an entire street to set up tables for all of the businesses), each restaurant and bar will have to submit a separate proposal and will be responsible for its own outdoor area (so that customers at bar A won't be able to sit in the outdoor area of restaurant B). And the overall expansion can't exceed the establishment's existing indoor and outdoor seating capacity.

Also on May 19, the state released a draft version of details on how restaurants and bars will be able to safely operate once they can reopen their dining rooms. Missing from the guidelines (which are available on the State of Colorado website) are capacity percentages — the guidelines only state "TBD based on science" — and an actual date (which is expected to be decided on May 25). But included are proposed table distances and party sizes: eight feet apart with no more than six guests per party. 

Here's the complete list for indoor/patio recommendations (the document also includes takeout guidelines, which have been established previously):

Among the no-nos: games, tablecloths, self-service buffets and staying open past 10 p.m.

Since these are draft guidelines, the state has also set up a feedback form for businesses to submit comments on both pick-up and dine-in guidance. On Thursday, May 21, Governor Polis is expected to hold a Q&A session with CRA members at 2:30 p.m.

Still, we have a few more days to wait before Governor Polis and "science" offer more in terms of when the hospitality industry can get back to doing what it does best: serving guests.
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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