Gov. Jared Polis has extended for another 30 days the July 21 executive order mandating a "last call" for breweries, restaurants and similar establishments to serve alcohol. The new order, which went …
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Gov. Jared Polis has extended for another 30 days the July 21 executive order mandating a "last call" for breweries, restaurants and similar establishments to serve alcohol.
The new order, which went into effect Aug. 22, changed "last call" to 11 p.m., an hour later than the previous executive order.
In his Aug. 21 announcement, Polis said that if the data continues to show positive COVID-19 trends, within a month he could change the cutoff time to midnight, which is what restaurant owners are calling for.
The data being used to make decisions about restaurants and bars are "across the board," Polis said, including epidemiological data and scientific studies that show how it spreads in different environments, as well as contact tracing and where people have likely contracted the virus.
State epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said that there has been a substantial decrease in COVID-19 cases among 20- to 29-year-olds, the age group "we know spends more time in bars and restaurants and later into the evening."
Chris Fusilier, owner of Blake Street Tavern in Denver and a lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed on behalf of restaurants and bars against the state challenging the last call order, said Polis' change would not stop efforts to move forward with the lawsuit. The Denver judge hearing the lawsuit has ordered the two sides to go to mediation, and the plaintiffs are seeking an expedited process, Fusilie said.
The lawsuit also challenges an order reducing restaurant capacity to 50 people per room; Fusilier said that for his business, that's a maximum of 17% of his total capacity of 900.
"I'm fighting for my life" right now, said Fusilier, who also is concerned about what happens once the fall and cold weather begin to set in, and they can no longer offer patio seating.
The governor on Aug. 21 also announced a revamping of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's website offering COVID-19 data. Herlihy said the changes consolidate data in one place, and among the most significant changes, the site will provide "patient-level demographics" -- age, race, sex and ethnicity information, and how it's changed over the course of the pandemic.
That also includes demographic information for hospitalized patients and where they went after discharge, such as going home, a skilled nursing facility or long-term care, she said.
According to the Aug. 19 outbreak report from CDPHE, 561 outbreaks (defined as at least two positive cases) have been reported since the pandemic began.
Among the 561 outbreaks, 32 were at sit-down restaurants; an additional five are breweries or bars.
Half of the restaurant outbreaks are marked as "resolved," meaning those outbreaks have been investigated and are considered over. Not one lists a customer who said they contracted COVID-19 at a restaurant or bar. The 150 positive or presumed positive cases are all for employees.
The original "last call" order applied to restaurants, bars with food service, breweries and tap houses and liquor stores. However, Polis amended the order on July 23 to allow liquor stores to remain open until midnight. Restaurant owners alleged in the lawsuit that he did so under pressure from industry lobbyists.
The lawsuit, filed by the Tavern League of Colorado, initially sought a temporary restraining order putting the "last call" on hold until a trial could be held. In court documents, the league said Polis' decisions around limiting customer capacity on June 30 and the "last call" order on July 21 were arbitrary and not based on any scientific data, in contrast to other public health orders that the governor has said rely on science.
On July 30, after a two-day hearing, Denver District Court Judge Brian Whitney denied the restraining order. While calling the selection of 10 p.m. "arbitrary," Whitney said people left to their own devices won't take necessary precautions and the virus will get out of control.
This story is from Colorado Politics, a statewide political and public policy news journal. Used by permission. For more, visit coloradopolitics.com.
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