Late-night alcohol ban forces Summit County restaurant owners and managers to shift gears once again
FRISCO — A countywide ban on alcohol sales and consumption past 10 p.m. is the latest in a slew of changing restrictions on local restaurants.
On Thursday, Oct. 22, Public Health Director Amy Wineland signed an amendment to the local public health order, implementing a ban on consumption, service, possession and sale of alcohol at restaurants and bars past 10 p.m.
The amended order, which went into effect Friday, is the first in a series of measures the county has taken to mitigate the spread of the virus and try to control case numbers, which have been on the rise in Summit County.
“We’re going to have to be implementing some strategic and very defined mitigation strategies to target some of the areas where we’re seeing cases rising,” Wineland said at a Board of Health meeting Thursday.
One of those areas is within restaurants. The county has reported five outbreaks among employees of local restaurants since Labor Day. Many of the outbreaks are the result of restaurant staff staying after their shifts to have a drink or socialize with one another, Wineland said.
“There’s no after-hours consumption on premises by staff, or anybody else, allowed based on the way this order is written,” County Manager Scott Vargo said at the meeting. “We’re hoping that will eliminate some of the after-hours activity that we’ve seen as well as some of the mingling and other activities that we’re seeing taking place within these restaurant and bar environments.”
Restaurants already have faced restrictions and cutbacks before the newly amended order. The county has set a mandatory 11 p.m. closing time, and the state requires that restaurants operate at 50% capacity indoors.
If Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials decide Summit County’s case numbers are bad enough to move into the safer-at-home Level 3 phase of reopening, restaurants will have to operate at 25% capacity.
Because many restaurants already have shortened their hours to closing at 9 or 10 p.m. in response to the virus, the amended order won’t have a huge effect. However, it’s still putting a strain on businesses, owners and managers say.
Tanecia Spagnolia, owner of Timberline Craft Kitchen & Cocktails in Silverthorne, said the restaurant, which typically closes around 9:30 or 10 p.m., likely will see the amended order’s impact most around the holidays.
“Around Christmastime, when there’s a lot more people in the county and people are on vacation, we tend to have a crowd that wants to stay a little later and hang out,” she said. “But I don’t think it’s a huge impact. We’re obviously not a club in the city that’s open to 2 a.m.”
Spagnolia said the order makes sense, based on how she’s seen people behave late at night with more alcohol in their system.
“I can see definitely, even with my own restaurant, the people who are staying later and drinking, they definitely seem to be less concerned or worried about the spread of COVID,” she said.
Not everyone in the restaurant industry believes the order is necessary, however. Ericka Aguayo, manager of Ollie’s Grub & Pub in Frisco, which currently closes at 11 p.m., said she doesn’t see how it will help stop the spread.
“I think it’s kind of ridiculous,” Aguayo said. “I get the whole point behind it, but at the same time, the one hour, I don’t understand what it does.”
Aguayo and Spagnolia both said staff will be adjusting to the ban by implementing an earlier last call and having waiters remind customers about the consumption rule as 10 p.m. approaches.
Aguayo said she isn’t too concerned about the rule impacting the restaurant’s sales, as it has been busier than expected. However, throughout the pandemic, she and her co-workers have experienced a major loss in tips.
“We’re still making money to make ends meet, some of us better than others,” she said. “But it definitely cut what I was making in half, and I’m pretty sure around the board that’s been happening.”
Both Aguayo and Spagnolia said they will be enforcing the rule about staff hanging out after a shift. However, it makes the work environment more lonely, Aguayo said.
“All it’s doing is forcing people to find other things and other ways to wind down after work,” Aguayo said.
Spagnolia said the changing restrictions and guidance from the state have made it difficult on all restaurant owners. With winter approaching, unease is mounting, she said.
“The summer was really good, but we’re really worried about the winter with limited capacity and guests being scared to eat inside,” Spagnolia said. “There’s just a lot of unknowns, and we’re not sure what’s going to happen.”
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