Summit County to close bars at direction of the governor
KEYSTONE — Less than two weeks after Colorado bars opened at 25% capacity, Gov. Jared Polis has closed them once again.
At a news conference Tuesday, Polis announced bars and nightclubs, which were allowed to open at 25% capacity June 18, will have to close in response to rising case numbers of the novel coronavirus in Colorado and nearby states like Texas and Arizona.
“In my eagerness to get Colorado reopened and back to a semblance of normalcy, our guidance on June 18 allowed bars and nightclubs to open in a reduced capacity,” Polis said at the news conference. “I was excited. … I know they’re important. They’re important economically, not only for the people that work in bars but an important way to get your frustrations out.”
However, having bars open presents too big a risk for Colorado, Polis said.
“Having bars and nightlife in an unsustainable way is simply too big a risk of a setback for Colorado,” he said. “It’s too big a risk of schools being unsafe to return to. It’s too big a risk of having to close gyms and pools. It’s too big a risk of having to reduce restaurant capacity.”
The closure applies to Summit County in addition to the entire state. Because the county refers to state guidelines in its safer-at-home public health order, local rules will match state rules.
“We are seeing a higher incidence in cases related to bars, and we do not want to have that happen here in Summit County,” Public Health Director Amy Wineland said at Tuesday’s joint Board of Health and Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting.
Polis said the spike in cases in Texas and Arizona are directly related to bars and nightclubs reopening. Now that both of those states have closed that type of venue, Polis said he doesn’t want to see Colorado become the next best option.
“We don’t want Colorado to become a mecca of nightlife in the pandemic,” Polis said.
Bars that serve meals can continue to be open, following the rules and regulations for restaurants, which require tables to be 6 feet apart and customers and employees to wear a mask when not eating or drinking. The rules also prohibit mingling among groups.
The news also impacts restaurants, which will have to close their bar areas again. While bartenders can use the area to make drinks, customers will not be allowed to sit at the bar, Wineland said.
Bars still will be allowed to offer takeout drink options.
Polis said the nature of bars and nightclubs makes it increasingly difficult to prevent the spread of the disease.
“Our country and the world has not yet figured out in the pandemic how to do bars and nightclubs safely,” he said.
In addition to announcing the closure of bars statewide, Polis also announced the finalized framework for the protect-our-neighbors phase of reopening.
Under the current safer-at-home order, bars will remain closed through July. However, if counties are approved to move into the protect-our-neighbors phase, bars will be allowed to function at 50% capacity or up to 500 people, whichever is fewer.
Counties can start applying for the next phase of reopening next week. As of now, Wineland does not suggest the county apply.
“We just took a huge step recently to increase our event size to 175,” she said. “We haven’t had a couple of weeks since then to really see what that impact is going to be here on the virus within Summit County.”
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