DENVER – Colorado’s executive order capping last call at 10 p.m. will be changed to allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol until 11 p.m., effective Saturday, Gov. Jared Polis announced Friday.
The initial order had been set to expire, and bar owners who have generally been unhappy with the order since it came down had hoped the governor would either let it expire or allow them to make last call at midnight after a group of bars lost in court after suing over the order.
Polis said he was “hopeful” that the state could move the last call to midnight within a month and said it would be important for bars and restaurants to continue observing proper social distancing protocols.
“Hopefully it will provide folks with a little more breathing room,” the governor said of the change to 11 p.m.
He and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said data showed a steep drop off in cases involving the 20-29-year-old age group, which they had pointed to as being reasoning for the order.
“That, of course, is the age group we know that is spending more time in bar and restaurant settings later in the evening,” Herlihy said.
Bar owners told Denver7 they were hoping the governor would allow them to stay open until midnight since the state seems to be doing better.
Steven Waters is the owner of Run for the Roses in the Dairy Block. The cocktail bar has only been open for a little more than a year and says business has been tough during the pandemic.
"Once the 10 p.m. curfew went down on us, we saw a massive loss in revenue that we had already lost," Waters said. "We’re probably doing about 15% of what our normal revenue is."
Normally, Run for the Roses operates out of a basement, however Waters was able to work with a hotel upstairs to use some of its ground-level space to set up a makeshift outdoor patio area.
Waters says getting creative has been the key. The well holding the liquor is set up on two milk crates; he bought patio furniture off of Amazon and is using stacked benches to display his liquor products. He's trying to do whatever he can to keep his business afloat.
"We are a brand new business. We have a loan to pay, we have rent to pay, we are in a new development and we have to be open," Waters said. "We’re trying to do whatever we can to be responsible and to be safe, and to be here and not contribute to any sort of spread."
Normally, the majority of revenue for the bar comes from the 9 p.m. to midnight time frame, with only about 10% of it coming from the midnight to 2 a.m. time frame. He was hoping the governor would give bars a little more leniency but understands the decision.
"Midnight would’ve been an ideal scenario, but right now I will take whatever we can get," Waters said.
Over at Union Station, meanwhile, the outdoor patio areas have made all the difference for business. Brandon Hanson, the food and beverage director for Union Station says he is now in the process of figuring out how to make the outdoor dining work when the weather cools down.
About 80% of the bars' business at Union Station happens between 5 and 10 p.m., but the executive order still took a toll.
"That was not an insignificant portion of our sales that occurred between 10 p.m. and midnight,"Hanson said.
He's looking forward to the extra hour of service, hoping it will bring back some business and a bit more normalcy.
"I do think it will have a positive impact. I have yet to see how much that will be," he said.
The extra hour was also bittersweet for the Tavern League of Colorado. While the group appreciates the extra hour and the impact it will have on businesses, they would have liked to see the last call extended to midnight, particularly given the state's downward trend on COVID-19 numbers.
"Every hour counts. Is it a game changer? Not necessarily, midnight would’ve been better. This is just another kind of Band-Aid if you will on a gaping wound," said Stephanie Fransen Hicks, the group's executive director.
The Tavern League of Colorado had sued the Polis administration in an unsuccessful attempt to block the initial last call order and wouldn't specify on whether it is considering further legal action.
The group doesn't believe that the data supports the governor's executive order on last calls for bars.
Fransen Hicks says the Tavern League will continue to advocate for personal responsibility and more trust for Coloradans since bars are highly regulated and well-trained on how to regulate a social environment. She wanted to stress that the 11 p.m. last call shouldn't be seen as a long-term fix.
Polis said Colorado was “in a better place” in terms of viral presence than where it was when he issued the first last call order on July 21.
He said that he’s had discussions with lawmakers and mayors recently and that there was a consensus that the last call times should be moved back by the legislature next year.
“I’m for extending it to 4 in the morning,” Polis said. “…I agree these are outrageous steps that are being taken.”