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Douglas County asks for program that would let businesses operate with fewer restrictions if they follow safety guidelines

A similar program is already being used in Mesa County.

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — The Board of Douglas County Commissioners on Wednesday sent a letter to Gov. Jared Polis asking for him to allow them to implement a program that would allow businesses to operate with fewer restrictions if they follow certain safety measures. 

A similar program, called the 5-Star Variance Protection Program, is already being used in Mesa County.

"We understand you believe the Mesa County 5-Star Program can serve as a state model," the letter reads. "We agree and note many restaurants in our community are already following the eight requirements outlined or can make small adaptions to come into compliance. It remains our top priority to protect public health with strong, data-driven recommendations. However, both lives and livelihoods are at stake."

Mesa County's program is voluntary and was introduced as a second phase of the Safer at Home Business Safety Plan, according to the enrollment document

When a business applies, a Mesa County Public Health representative visits the facility to assess measures related to COVID-19 safety practices. If they receive a "5-Star" rating, that business gets a variance that allows them to have looser capacity limits and other restrictions.

The letter comes after five restaurants were forced to close Monday in Douglas County after allowing indoor dining – a violation of the county's public health order. 

Those closure orders were rescinded Wednesday after Tri-County Health said it had reached an agreement with all five restaurants.

RELATED: 5 Douglas County restaurants reopen after closing for violating health order on indoor dining

Douglas County, along with nearly two dozen counties in Colorado moved to stricter Level Red COVID-19 restrictions to slow exponential growth of the novel coronavirus. 

In those counties, all restaurants have to temporarily close to indoor dining, but takeout is still an option, Polis said last week. 

RELATED: 22 counties move to 'severe risk' level on state's COVID-19 dial

The town of Castle Rock, in Douglas County, held a special meeting Tuesday night to vote on a resolution opposing the elevated COVID restrictions. 

The City Council voted to pass that resolution, which now includes a significant amendment -- Castle Rock won't use its resources to enforce Level Red restrictions.

The decision was made after testimony from business owners there.

Among the speakers was Miguel Rodriguez, who owns The Office Bar and Kitchen, a restaurant that the Tri-County Health Department shut down for having indoor dining. Rodriguez said he wished Castle Rock could do more to help. 

"It's unfair, very sad, and depressing to be blamed and trolled, to be pointed at, and controlled to the extent of now being referred to us as a criminal. You cannot support us, because you will be supporting a criminal activity," he said.

The letter from county commissioners to Polis says they are advocating for "fair treatment of restaurants" claiming they have been "unfairly penalized by the Level Red restrictions."

The commissioners are asking to implement a Variance Protection Program allowing for local control as a path to help small businesses.

"If we don't hear from you [Polis] by December 4, 2020, we will proceed with the implementation of our Douglas County Variance Protection Program," the letter says.

Read the full letter below. 

RELATED: Businesses from Loveland to Castle Rock push back against Level Red COVID restrictions