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Colorado restaurants make plans for reopening

Ryan Fletter is one business owner in Denver making plans to reopen his restaurants safely when Colorado health orders allow for that.

DENVER — Ryan Fletter said planning to reopen dining rooms in his two Denver restaurants has kept him up at night.

“I’ve lost so much sleep and I’ve had and countless conversations with our staff about how to do this correctly,” Fletter, the owner of Barolo Grill in Cherry Creek and Chow Morso downtown said.

He said that’s what made the scene to his south so upsetting. On Monday, a café in Castle Rock was ordered to close after it defied a public health order, opening its dining room.

“For somebody to hop right over all of that and undermine all of it was embarrassing,” Fletter said.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis on Monday said the state should have enough data to make a decision on when to allow limited in-restaurant dining by May 25.

When he is allowed to reopen, Fletter expects there will be limited capacity. He’s been preparing for 50% of what is normal.

“We may set table 1, table 3 and table 5 so to speak and have those set for guests that have special distancing, and they’re well-prepped – and as those tables start to leave, we will start cleaning and sanitizing table 2 and table 4,” he said.

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Fletter also said his restaurants could temporarily only allow reservations, so the staff can vet customers beforehand. Part of that vetting could include and on-site temperature checks and a disclosure of whether the customer has been exposed to COVID-19.

“We might have to do some of that work to make people feel at ease,” he said.

Many restaurants may choose to remain closed if their capacity is limited at 50%, according to Sonia Riggs, CEO of the Colorado Restaurant Association. She pointed to a survey that found more devastating results for larger capacity limits.

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Riggs said 23% of restaurant operators surveyed said if their capacity was limited to 25%, they would be permanently closed within a month.

“There’s only so long that they can do this before we see more and more restaurants closing permanently,” Riggs said.

The association is lobbying both the city of Denver and the state of Colorado to allow restaurants to allow a capacity if they open more outdoor seating. Riggs’ organization is also lobbying for more advanced notice for restaurants of guidelines.

She said restaurant distributors have said it could take two to three weeks to begin to fully fulfill orders once in-restaurant dining is re-opened.

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