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Reopening Colorado: Governor Gives The OK For Restaurants To Have Dine-In Customers Starting Wednesday

DENVER (CBS4) - After weeks of only serving takeout during the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants will finally be allowed to offer dine-in service across the state starting on Wednesday. Gov. Jared Polis made the announcement on Monday afternoon.

"We're excited to get going for sure," said Joe Pettenger, the Managing Partner at LoHi Steakbar. "We were anticipating early June, so we're only a few days ahead of schedule and we're ready to go."

Dining At Union Station
Stoic & Geniune (credit: CBS)

On Monday, LoHi Steakbar held a socially-distanced Memorial Day barbeque on their patio for takeout orders. For the last two months, restaurants have only been allowed to offer takeout or delivery meals.

On Wednesday, dining rooms can open up to restaurants under strict guidelines.

"There's definitely some tough things on there but they were better than what we were anticipating," Pettenger said. "We have our signs ready, and we're ready to go."

The guidelines say outdoor dine-in service is encouraged, but restaurants will need to obtain proper licensing and permits to expand patio seating. LoHi Steakbar is one of 375 applicants for expanded patio seating in the city of Denver.

Indoor dine-in service can be held at 50% of the posted occupancy code limit with a max of 50 customers if specific requirements can be met. There will be no more than eight people to a table and tables must be six feet apart.

"We are still a long way from returning to normal, but these updates are a step in the right direction because Coloradans are doing a good job so far limiting our social interactions. If we can continue staying at home as much as possible, wearing face coverings and washing our hands when leaving the house, then we will be able to slow the spread of the virus while reigniting our economy. If not, it will cost lives, and the economic pain will also be worse," Polis said in a prepared statement on Monday.

Juan Padro, who owns a handful of restaurants in the Denver-metro area said this guidelines, could be tough for some.

"We have some that are small, where we can't get 50 people in there and we're really going to have to capitalize on some outdoor space," Padro told CBS4. "It's something we'll have to work though. Each size of the restaurant is really going to dictate the success of it in this phase."

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An order waits for pickup at Lola Coastal Mexican in the Lower Highlands neighborhood as restaurants in the city are prohibited from having patrons dine-in for the next eight weeks, beginning today, on March 17, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. Restaurants are still allowed to offer takeout and delivery. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Customers must wear masks when they are not eating, and all workers must wear masks. Restaurants are also encouraged to provide a sign-in sheet to notify people if there's a COVID-19 outbreak.

"This is about revenue recovery," Padro said. "It's not necessarily about being super profitable or anything like that. It's about surviving this phase and safety."

There are several other requirements that restaurants will have to meet in order to stay open. Polis called them "science-based guidelines." See the full list of requirements.

"We're glad to see that much of the feedback from the industry was integrated, including clarification around which types of establishments these guidelines apply to, clarification of social distancing guidelines between parties, practical guidance on gloves and handwashing, and more. We will be working with the industry to help them comply with these guidelines," said Sonia Riggs, CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association, in a statement on Sunday.

Bars do not fall under these guidelines and must remain closed until further notice, Polis said.

It's a new phase restaurant staff will have to navigate, but one that many are looking forward to.

"It's going to take extra staff to make sure we are cleaning properly and have those guidelines enforced, as well as navigating people to where they need to go," Pettinger said. "Patience from the public is going to be key."

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