Summit County amends public health order implementing 11 pm restaurant curfew | SummitDaily.com
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Summit County amends public health order implementing 11 pm restaurant curfew

Customers eat at Murphy's Tavern on Wednesday, July 15. Before Summit County implemented an 11 p.m. curfew, the restaurant was closing at 10 p.m. Owner Kim Reil said restrictions on bar areas make it difficult to justify being open past 10 p.m.
Libby Stanford / estanford@summitdaily.com

KEYSTONE — Summit County has amended its safer-at-home public health order to implement an 11 p.m. curfew on restaurants and bars.

Public Health Director Amy Wineland signed the amended order Tuesday, less than a week after the town of Breckenridge issued an order that included the same curfew on the town’s restaurants. The order, which took effect Wednesday, allows bars and restaurants to stay open no later than 11 p.m.

The goal of the order is to prevent the spread of the virus among late night crowds at restaurants. County officials said they were hearing about people staying late and becoming relaxed on face-covering guidelines, which could be dangerous when it comes to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“It’s just to discourage people sitting around mingling without masks on where we know the virus continues to spread,” Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said. 

Lawrence said it was important to go along with the Breckenridge emergency order to show unity among all of the county’s governments. 

“We know the virus doesn’t have boundaries,” she said. “It’s not just going to stay within one of our towns. It’s widespread throughout Summit County. So it’s really important we’re all on the same page.”

For most restaurant owners, the amended order doesn’t really affect their business. Outside of Breckenridge, the home of most of the county’s late night establishments, few businesses are open past 11 p.m. However, some of those restaurants already altered their hours to close earlier in the night. 

Kim Reil, owner of Murphy’s Tavern in Silverthorne, said her restaurant has been closing at 10 p.m. because it’s not profitable to be open past then. Since Colorado Gov. Jared Polis closed bars July 1, no one is allowed to sit at bar areas. That move made it difficult for Reil to draw in any sort of late night crowd. 

“Since we reopened on May 27, we never really did have that late night crowd because there is no bar seating in our restaurant,” she said. 

Reil agrees with the county’s decision to implement the curfew even if it doesn’t directly affect her business. 

“We’ve been trying to be really diligent about preventing (mingling),” she said. “When we have people come in, we don’t like them to mingle. Even if they are just drinking before that hour, we just prefer them to sit at their designated table. It’s not a free-for-all.”

The owners of Lake Dillon Tavern & Pizza Co. have taken a similar approach. The tavern, which usually closes at 1 a.m. or midnight, has been closing at 9:30 p.m. since it reopened during the pandemic. 

“We’re conscious of this pandemic,” co-owner Maggie Heppe said. “We felt that (closing earlier) was safer. Also we felt there was no reason for us to stay open and pay our employees to be there when nobody was there drinking or eating.”

Whenever restaurants are allowed to open fully again, Heppe said the tavern would be watching customers closely to see if they are complying with the rules. 

“If we’re allowed to open fully, and we see people aren’t following the rules and guidelines, we would definitely pull back,” she said. “We love our community, and we want to keep everybody safe.”

Reil and Heppe both think the county and community are doing a good job responding to the virus. The biggest issues come from visitors who aren’t aware of the county’s mask ordinance, Reil said. 

“I do think it’s really hard when we have those few customers come and have really kind of gone off on us,” Reil said. “I don’t know what to do about that. I feel bad for my staff. I’m trying to protect my staff and keep our business open. We’re trying to follow all the rules, but I just want the visitors to pay attention.”


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