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Why Colorado Restaurant Association says Level Blue won't help all restaurants

Level Blue will allow restaurants to return to 100% capacity, but the Colorado Restaurant Association said this won't benefit all businesses.

DENVER — Denver’s Level Blue COVID-19 restrictions will allow restaurants to move to 100% capacity, but the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) does not consider this to be a golden ticket back to normalcy.

“We cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting the restaurant industry on the path to economic recovery, and that recovery cannot even begin until restaurants resume operations at full capacity without social distancing,” Sonia Riggs, president of the association, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Level Blue maintains that restaurants keep social distancing requirements, meaning six feet of space between groups. Denver shifts to that category starting Friday when the statewide color dial expires and local agencies take a bigger role in setting COVID regulations.

The CRA called the move a step forward but argued that it favors large restaurants.

“…the six-foot distancing rules prevent small- to mid-size restaurants from being able to open at 100% capacity—and many restaurants will remain at below 50% capacity. Until the six-foot distancing requirements are lifted, most restaurants will be stuck operating between 25% and 50% capacity,” the statement said.

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Riggs went on to say that a patchwork of rules across counties will offer a competitive advantage to restaurants in counties with fewer rules.

Six local counties -- Denver, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield and Jefferson -- will move together through shifting COVID-19 rules. They plan to stay in Level Blue until at least mid-May, when they should shift to Level Clear. Level Clear has no COVID restrictions aside from a likely indoor mask mandate.

As of mid-March, the CRA estimated that about 1,000 restaurants closed statewide because of reasons related to the pandemic. They also estimated Colorado restaurants collectively lost more than $3 billion in 2020.

In an email to 9NEWS then, Riggs told 9NEWS that the association would be working on proposals for the state legislative session, including an extension of to-go alcohol. They also planned to work with local governments on expanding patio seating for restaurants in the summer.

WATCH: 'It felt like an eternity:' Colorado restaurant owner reflects on one year of COVID restrictions

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