134 Summit County restaurants cleared to open to in-person dining under 5-star program
Summit County’s 5 Star Business Certification Program allowed 134 restaurants to open to indoor dining over the weekend.
The program allows restaurants to reopen to in-person dining at 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is fewer, despite the county being in level red on the state’s COVID-19 dial. The catch is that restaurants have to comply with more stringent regulations than those required for in-person dining in level orange, including spacing tables and parties at least 10 feet apart, screening customers and employees for symptoms, and gathering contact information to help with contact tracing.
If Summit County eventually moves into level orange, businesses in the five-star program can operate at capacities associated with level yellow.
Summit County Manager Scott Vargo said there was a big rush to approve restaurants for the program over the weekend. The county received additional applications Monday, Dec. 21, and expects to see more.
The deluge of applications meant it was all hands on deck for the county and towns to review the applications and complete an inspection at each business. Vargo said the local governments asked employees to volunteer as inspectors for restaurants in their jurisdictions, with public health officials just a phone call away to help answer questions.
“The feedback that I got from all of the folks from the county that did the work was the restaurateurs were incredibly grateful for the opportunity to go through the process, and everybody seemed to be very understanding of any questions or requirements that were put out there,” Vargo said. “So I think it went well not just from a county and town perspective but from a small business and restaurant perspective, as well.”
At the Breckenridge Tourism Office’s community update meeting Monday, Dec. 21, Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula applauded town staff for putting together a team of 20 inspectors to certify 67 businesses over the weekend. Town Manager Rick Holman said 20-30 inspections were done per day starting Friday. He added that getting restaurants open in some capacity is important for the local economy because the town makes 60% of its revenue during the winter months.
“They’re difficult rules to operate on, 10-foot spacing between parties, and the air filtration thing is really a work in progress, I think, for a lot of people,” said Mamula, who also owns a restaurant. “I know a lot of restaurants have spent a ton of money, but it’s good news. There’s a lot of places open now for Christmas week, and that is a big thumbs up.”
- Frisco: Bit.ly/3awCVAR
- Breckenridge: Bit.ly/3pi9cQb
- Silverthorne: Bit.ly/3pfsPso
- Dillon: Arapahoe Cafe & Pub, Dillon Dam Brewery, Elevation Bowl, Lake Dillon Tavern, Lili’s Bistro, Pug Ryan’s Brewery, Sabor Mazatlan and Saved by the Wine
- Summit County: 6th Alley Bar & Grill, Bighorn Bistro, Black Mountain Lodge, Broken Compass Brewing, Cala Pub and Restaurant, Copper Conference Center, Dos Locos Mexican Restaurant & Cantina, Eagle BBQ, The Goat, Haywood, Jack’s Slopeside Grill, JJ’s Rocky Mountain Tavern, Keystone Ranch Restaurant, Kickapoo, Legends Cafe, Luigi’s Pastahouse, Mamma’s Italiano, Montezuma Roadhouse, Myla Rose Saloon, Pizza on the Run, Sawmill, Ski Tip Lodge, Snake River Saloon & Steakhouse, Solitude Grill, Spoon Cafe, Steep Brewing & Coffee Co., Subway, Ten Mile Tavern, West Village Cafe, El Zacatecano
Kim Nix, general manager of Dillon Dam Brewery, detailed the process of reopening, which she described as “a whirlwind.” Nix said she submitted her application at 4:45 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17. Three minutes later, she received an email that the town could start the inspection process at 8:30 a.m. the next day. Nix met with the town via Zoom on Friday, Dec. 18, and was interviewed before an on-site inspection later in the day.
“They came down, and I just had to demonstrate different things in the building and show them how we do, for example, employee symptom checks,” Nix said. “… And then they approved us. … He said, ’You’re approved, and you can open immediately.’”
Nix spent the rest of the morning building a staff for the evening. Dillon Dam opened for dinner that night with 16 tables — 50-60 seats — on its two floors, which was slightly below 25% capacity.
Nix said she met the air quality improvement requirement by opening the windows with fans blowing air outside and a high-efficiency particulate air filter. Moving forward, eight more HEPA filters have been ordered, and new filters are being installed in the HVAC system next week. Once these additions are made, the brewery can close the windows.
Nix said the staff is thrilled about indoor dining reopening. While the limited capacity still makes things difficult for businesses, she said she’s happy to be open in some capacity and for the bit of normalcy indoor dining will provide.
“It was one of my favorite days of the week because I got to rehire staff that I laid off,” Nix said. “Some of the people I laid off in November due to this closure are people that I had to lay off in March, so I laid them off twice. So being able to bring them back at Christmastime was huge for me. It was like, finally, I have some good news.”
Blue River Bistro owner Jay Beckerman said he was astonished at the speed and thoroughness of local governments to enact the program and open restaurants. He said the restaurant had all of the necessary documents organized in a packet and that the inspector took over an hour to make sure a comprehensive inspection was conducted. For example, Beckerman said the inspector took a tape measure to make sure each guest was seated 10 feet away from nearby tables.
“They really took the responsibility very seriously, which we appreciated,” Beckerman said. “… This was the real deal, and I think that gave us all confidence that it would last and that it wouldn’t be a short-lived breather and that perhaps we’ll be able to make it with some semblance of indoor dining throughout the winter.”
Blue River Bistro received approval at 10:45 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, and opened for lunch at 11 a.m. that day with five tables with six seats each, which is less than 25% capacity.
Beckerman told his staff during a meeting Saturday that “today is better than yesterday.” He said locals have supported the restaurant by ordering takeout and that he was pleasantly surprised when visitors were willing to sit outside in the cold and eat. He also shared his appreciation for staff to continue coming to work and finding things to do despite the closure of indoor dining.
“You never know the resiliency that a business and organization has until it’s put through the ringer,” Beckerman said. “… You find ways of doing it, and you scrape and you claw, and it brings you back to when you first started the business. When it comes down to it, you figure it out.”
Vargo added that the county has heard from other industries that are struggling, particularly the fitness industry, and want to be included in the five-star program. He said if case numbers continue in a positive direction, the county will expand the program to other industries.
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