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Northern Colorado Businesses Band Together To Survive COVID Restrictions

LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) - Businesses in Larimer County are looking for some leeway to help them survive another round of restrictions. The Level Up Pilot Program, which county leaders proposed to the governor's office on Thursday, would allow businesses to operate under lighter restrictions, if they can prove they're taking safety measures.

(credit: CBS)

More than half of Colorado counties are currently under Level Red restrictions in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Under Level Red, indoor dining is not allowed and outdoor dining is limited to one household per table.

The Level Up Pilot Program would allow businesses to operate at one lower level of restrictions, if they can prove they're following strict safety measures. Some of the expectations include 100% mask enforcement, sanitation best practices, maintaining the one household rule and having a safety plan.

According to the group behind Level Up, the program was inspired by the Mesa County Variance Protection Program, known more commonly as the 5-star program.

Members of the business community, several local chambers of commerce, economic development professionals and public health officials all participated in the drafting of Level Up.

Morgen Harrington, owner of Grimm Brothers Brewhouse, is one of them, despite being one of dozens of Loveland business owners who initially refused to comply with new Level Red restrictions two weeks ago.

(credit: CBS)

"We needed a different answer, and our local officials were amazing in their response and their ability to work with us and the level up program is what came out of that partnership," Harrington said.

With a few outdoor tables and a single tent, Harrington's business is once again scraping by. She sees a program like Level Up as a way for businesses to serve more customers while still following health guidelines laid out by experts.

"It's not anarchy. It's not no masks and everyone's running around doing whatever they want," Harrington said. "They're still adhering to strict guideline. It's just guidelines that make sense for keeping small businesses alive."

Loveland Tap and Tavern's owner, David Mayhew, said he would apply for the program if it is approved.

"It would vastly increase our bottom line, as far as being able to stay ahead and come out of the other side of this," Mayhew said.

On Thursday, a planning committee met with the governor's office to present the Level Up plan and advocate for its approval.

(credit: CBS)

According to a release from the organizations behind the draft certification program, the governor's office was complimentary, but not prepared to make a decision. The release went on to say the office encouraged several modifications to the plan, including reconsideration of capacity limits and pre-certification.

"We don't need a pat on the back to tell us we did a good job," said Harrington. "We need action."

The state was expected to release a statewide business program on Friday. According to Mindy McCloughan, the President and CEO of the Loveland Chamber of Commerce, community partners are tentatively scheduled to meet with the governor's office again about the program and how it coincides with the state framework.

"We all need it right now, that's for sure," said Mayhew. "There's plenty of businesses I knew that are on their last knot hanging on that rope just to fall into oblivion."

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