Christmas came early to Douglas County, the first county in the metro area approved for Colorado's new 5 Star Certification Program, which allows restaurants to reopen their dining rooms — if they follow strict protocols (tables must be ten feet apart, for example) and are approved to do business by the county.
In Douglas County, that translates to at least twenty restaurants that can now serve diners indoors. They include many of the eateries at Park Meadows, including P.F. Chang's, the Rio Grande, Perry's Steakhouse, Seasons 52, GQueBBQ, Lone Tree Brewing Co,, Red Robin and the Yard House. Eateries in Parker and Castle Rock have also reopened. And, yes, Red Lobster and Applebee's will be serving on Christmas Eve. (See the full list of certified Douglas County restaurants as of early December 24 here.)
Summit County was the first county to qualify for the 5 Star program, which allows counties that meet certain requirements to move down a level on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's COVID-19 dial for business operations. As a result, more than a hundred restaurants and bars in Summit County are now serving indoors, with more joining every day.
Larimer County was approved for the program on December 23, and a few spots have reopened there; Arapahoe and Jefferson counties are game to get in the game and have applied, but while the City and County of Denver has signed off on the 5 Star program in theory, it has yet to apply to the state. And even if it is okayed for the program, the city will still have to approve businesses that apply to be certified.
The city can't move fast enough for Andy Feinstein, owner of Tracks and other properties, and a member of Mayor Michael Hancock's Economic Relief and Recovery Council. In a letter to Denver City Council members this week, he urged them to do what they could to move Denver along, saying it's important to find "middle ground so that bars and restaurants can come back at a modest capacity" while maintaining safe procedures to minimize COVID danger for employees and customers.
"Simply put, every day our industry's doors remain closed is a day that countless people are closer to economic devastation for themselves and their families, including many of the most vulnerable members of our community who rely on restaurant and hospitality industry jobs," he wrote.
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