Nightlife slowly returning to Southern Colorado

Bars moving at different paces to reopen
Nightlife slowly returning to Southern Colorado
Posted at 1:04 AM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 17:08:54-04

UPDATE: 3:00 p.m. 6/19/2020

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has released a seventh amended public health order with further guidance for bars:

Effective June 18, 2020, bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, distillery pubs, wineries, tasting rooms, special licensees, clubs, and other places of public accommodation offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption, referred to as Bars, may operate with the lesser of 25% of the posted occupancy limit or 50 patrons, whichever is less. If the establishment also ensures access to food from a licensed retail food establishment for on-premise consumption, it may operate at the lesser of 50% of the posted occupancy limit or no more than 50 patrons indoors within their usable space calculated using the Social Distancing Space Calculator []. Extra large establishments may expand to no more than 100 patrons indoors within their usable space calculated using the Social Distancing SpaceCalculator []. All establishments shall follow the Restaurant requirements contained in Appendix I.

That information begins on page 8 of the order, linked above.

Governor Jared Polis indicated bars will be allowed to open statewide by the end of this week, but El Paso County Public Health is still waiting on official guidance or an amended Public Health Order to outline more specific guidelines.

Still, bars in El Paso County can operate at 50% capacity or 50 customers, whichever is fewer. To do so, the bar must have a retail food license. So, many bars or breweries throughout the county have been taking steps to reopen at their own pace, after the variance was approved for El Paso County near the end of May.

For instance, Bristol Brewing Company held a soft opening last weekend, and Thursday was their official first big day back open to the public. The brewery took their time to put into place numerous changes protecting both their employees and customers, and ensuring that everyone feels safe being back in the building. "We're excited to slowly be coming out of it. It's still only four nights a week, it's still only one shift, but we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and we hope that people stay responsible and work within these parameters and we can continue to reduce some of those restrictions," said the Founder and Co-Owner of Bristol Brewing Company, Mike Bristol.

Those changes include a reservation system, which gives customers the option for contactless payment. The system also provides some customer information for the brewery, in case they ever need to practice contact tracing. Even though they are on a reservation system, they will take walk-ins if they can be accommodated. "It took us about three weeks to sort of really work through, and understand what the requirements were, understand how we could meet those requirements, and then also decide what were our requirements that were maybe even above and beyond what the state and the county required," said Bristol.

Plus, Bristol Brewing Company is only serving customers on their patio, with tables spread out from one another. Their cleaning protocols have been enhanced, and all of their staff wears masks. They also ask customers to wear a mask when moving around the brewery, but not when seated at a table. "Even if you don't feel like it's your responsibility to wear a mask, think about the people you come in contact with, or the employees at these places," said Bristol.

Meanwhile, Club Q reopened their doors soon after the El Paso County variance was approved. The bar had to change their business model to do so. "It's still a bar, but the nature of a bar is mingling and meeting people and with the current state of our health crisis, we're unable to do those things... So, we had to transform our dance floor to restaurant seating," said Nic Grazecka, who owns Club Q.

Grazecka said customers are coming back, but slowly. "Another hard thing is people aren't aware of what's open," said Grazecka.

In Pueblo, a variance allowing bars to begin reopening was approved last week. "All bars, unless you were set up to sell food, there was just nothing you could do," said Evan Hooton, one of the owners of The Cove in Pueblo.

The Cove has not yet reopened their doors, but they are considering doing so this weekend. "We feel like now, especially that Pueblo has started to lay out very specific guidelines, you know, this is a great time to reintroduce it... We can normally hold up to 90 people in that facility, and now we're going to be looking at about 20-25... Really does change the entire approach and the feel of something especially like The Cove," said Hooton.

Grazecka is also the director of Colorado Springs PrideFest Week. While the festival has been canceled this year, there are still several events coming up in July to celebrate. To learn more about those events, CLICK HERE.