Summit County restaurants to reopen dining services Wednesday with occupancy limits
FRISCO — Colorado’s response to the pandemic has been frenetic, with decisions made, changed or reversed on a seemingly hourly basis. Fortunately for Summit County restaurant owners, the latest about-face on policy by Gov. Jared Polis will allow them to open their dining rooms to the public for the first time since mid-March — albeit with strict capacity, layout and hygiene regulations in place.
The decision to open restaurants came as quite a surprise to Summit County, which Sunday had been denied parts of a requested variance that would have allowed the county’s restaurants to reopen. Jill Ryan, the state’s public health director, referred to recent outbreaks in the county as justification for keeping Summit’s restaurant interiors closed to diners. It appeared the county would have to wait another week to try for a variance again.
However, Polis announced Monday that restaurant dining would be allowed to resume statewide, with certain restrictions that would mitigate — but not eliminate — the risk of catching the virus.
These restrictions include limiting indoor occupancy to 50% of capacity, up to a maximum of 50 people, as well as limiting dining groups to eight members. Tables must be separated by at least 6 feet, and all employees must wear face coverings. Hard surfaces must be deep cleaned and sanitized between seating parties, and mingling with other diners or groups must not be allowed. Diners cannot serve themselves, and all common-use items — such as condiments, napkins and soda dispensers — must be removed.
The new guidelines also suggest that, whenever possible, doors and windows are kept open to provide ventilation, and that outdoor seating be encouraged. The governor also encouraged local municipalities to suspend restrictions on outdoor dining, such as allowing for sidewalks or parking lots to be used for seating.
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On Tuesday afternoon, Polis referred to the important social role restaurants have in American society as justification for reopening them.
“Restaurants fulfill an important societal and psychological benefit in our society,” Polis said. “Humans are social beings. We need social interactions to stay healthy, and sharing a meal and breaking bread is one of the most important ways to bond.”
Polis added that, while the reopening guidelines reduce risk, it cannot be eliminated and that vulnerable individuals or others concerned about the virus might want to avoid indoor dining.
Silverthorne residents might be happy to know that Sauce on the Blue on Blue River Parkway will be opening its doors for indoor and outdoor dining at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. While there was only about a day’s worth of notice before reopening, owner Tim Applegate said his restaurant was already prepared to reopen under the guidelines.
Applegate said all of the restaurant’s tables had been spaced at least 6 feet apart and that all servers and staff would be wearing masks and gloves along with adhering to the other rules in effect. Sauce’s famous bar and towering bottle display will be closed off, and no diners will be allowed to drink or sit there. The restaurant will have its full menu available, and prices remain unchanged.
In order to overcome the limit on indoor capacity, Applegate said Sauce would be maximizing its outdoor patio dining space, with the expectation that mild weather will allow for more guests to dine at the same time. Aside from the 6-foot requirement, Applegate said, there were no other major restrictions on outdoor dining.
Applegate said that calls for reservations already have come pouring in and that the community was showing a lot of enthusiasm to wine and dine with table service for the first time in months.
“Everybody’s excited to get back to it, and we want to make sure everybody is safe when they do,” Applegate said. “Hopefully, if we work to keep the infection numbers down, we will have ourselves more normalcy by July.”
HighSide Brewing in Frisco at Main Street and Summit Boulevard also will be reopening its indoor dining areas, with at least one floor expected to be ready for patrons to drink craft beer and try the brewery’s new barbecue menu. Owner David Axelrod said that while he’s thrilled to open up again, the suddenness of the governor’s announcement and restrictive guidelines caused a fair amount of confusion and scrambling on his part.
“We’re still digesting the order, as it only came down (Monday),” Axelrod said. “We have been frantically trying to understand the order and doing our best to comply.”
Axelrod explained that many parts of the old system at the brewery had to be changed to adhere to the guidelines. Guests can no longer order at the bar, which means staff have had to be retrained to take orders and serve at tables.
Signage and markers have been placed to help guide and inform diners on the new rules. Employees will have their temperatures checked before starting work and must attest to the absence of COVID-19 symptoms to work. One HighSide employee will be dedicated to ensuring safety compliance, and outdoor seating will be maximized.
Axelrod said that while the regulations were onerous and limiting his ability to generate revenue, he and his staff were thrilled to be back in business after several months of paralyzing uncertainty.
“These rules have been certainly difficult and intimidating, but we are excited to bring back some semblance of normalcy,” Axelrod said. “We are super excited about being able to see all our friends again and have a beer, even if it’s from 6 feet away.”
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