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Restaurant owners applaud governor's decision to move some counties from Red Level to Orange Level on COVID dial

Posted at 11:48 PM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-05 14:51:25-05

DENVER — Restaurant owners are celebrating the governor's decision to move counties from the Red Level to the Orange Level on the COVID dial.

That means a return to limited indoor dining.

The change is effective Jan. 4.

"You know 2020 has to end on a high note, and this is the high note," said Pam Briere, owner of West Main Taproom and Grill in Parker.

Briere was in a celebratory mood Thursday after learning about the Gov. Jared Polis' decision.

She'd kept her business afloat with the purchase of 29 ice fishing tents for individual dining experiences.

The individual tents, which can hold from one to 10 people, proved so popular in December, she purchased 21 more.

She said her business has been so strong, she had to hire additional staff.

"Business is almost double what I did this summer," she said.

Several customers told Denver7 they're happy about the governor's easing of restrictions.

"I'm Just happy to not be eating in my car, or on the couch anymore," said Wyatt Coffman.

Coffman was part of a party of three enjoying their first experience eating in a tent.

"I saw it on TV and said, 'Let's go try it, because I'm with him, I'm sick of eating at my house,'" said Cheryl Heaton.

Customer Wendy Coffman was so impressed by the tents, she said West Main should bring them back next year.

Briere is looking ahead, but not that far ahead. She told her staff that when the pandemic ends, she plans to go "hang out on a beach for a few days."

West Main has achieved 5 Star status, which means that as Douglas County transitions to Level Orange, Briere will be able to transition to the even less restrictive Level Yellow, a little later.

"That means we can move from 25% at tables 10 feet apart, to 50% at 6 feet apart," she said.

But that bump won't happen until the county meets the Level Orange metrics in terms of COVID-19 cases, positivity and hospitalization for at least two weeks in a row.

In a statement to Denver7, state health officials said, "Counties participating in the 5 Star program that are moving to the Orange level next week need to maintain the required Orange level metrics for a period of time before moving to the Yellow level capacities. We will be in contact with them in the coming days to provide additional information."

The owner of W.T. Shorty's Sports Grill, at Leetsdale and Oneida in Denver, said she too is looking forward to moving back to Orange.

"I'll be able to bring a couple of my staff members back, which is awesome," Lindsey Cardiff said.

She added that the governor's announcement means she can breathe a lot easier.

"Oh, it's night and day from what we've got going on right now," she said. "Twenty-five percent, or 50 people inside, that's great. We can social distance out here and seat people (on the covered patio,) and continue seating people on the uncovered patio. It would probably triple or quadruple how many people we can put out there right now."

"We're all very excited, I promise you," she said. "It's been a long month or so with just outdoor dining."

The City and County of Denver has applied for 5 Star status.

Cardiff said she will apply for it as well, so she can enjoy even fewer restrictions on indoor seating.

"We would have a very easy time social distancing inside," she said. "We have very high ceilings and 5,300 square feet."