State approves restaurant variance for El Paso County

Posted at 11:08 PM, May 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-25 11:16:42-04

EL PASO COUNTY, Colorado — Effective immediately, restaurants throughout El Paso County can now serve customers who chose to dine-in. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) notified El Paso County Public Health late Saturday evening that a variance request to allow in-person dining was approved.

The variance was approved with the additional requirement that, in order to achieve six feet of social distancing, a maximum of 50 percent of the posted occupancy for a given restaurant be allowed, not to exceed 50 people at any given time.

“Our agency is grateful for our partnerships with the Chamber & EDC and the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association, whose expertise helped expedite the development and quality of this variance request,” said Susan Wheelan, El Paso County Public Health Director in a news release. “We are also thankful for the efforts of the El Paso County Board of Commissioners in advocating for this proposal, and the support of local hospitals in their diligent review of the request.”

Jill Ryan, executive director for CDPHE, praised the county for it's thoughtfulness in designing regulation that kept public safety in mind.

“Your application describes a robust public health system with continuing collaboration with community partners to ensure that testing capacity, epidemiological response, PPE resources, and healthcare infrastructure remain stable and sufficient to meet community needs,” Ryan said.

Reservations will be required. However, walk-in reservations may also be accepted. Dining rooms will need to be set up so that all tables have a minimum of 6 feet of distance between occupied seats at different tables.

The maximum size for a dining party is 10 people who must all be from the same household or consistent social group.

Restaurants who reopen their dining rooms are encouraged to keep a record with the name and phone number of at least one adult from each party along with their table assignment and seating and departure times. That information should be kept on file for 3 weeks so that health officials can contact those diners in the event of a new COVID-19 outbreak.

Seating at bar areas will not be permitted unless a minimum of six-foot distancing between staff and customers can be maintained. Employees who come within six feet of customers must wear a cloth face mask unless doing so would inhibit the employee's health.

Multiple-use condiment containers are prohibited. Only single-use items may be provided. Buffets may not be self-serve by customers; only plated or carry-out delivery meals provided to customers by staff are allowed. Buffets must be at least six feet from any dining tables. Doorknobs, counter tops, bathrooms, handles, railings, and other high-touch areas shall be cleaned and disinfected every 2 hours.

Per CDPHE, this variance approval is granted based on the facts and circumstances today as described in the request. If the county were to have more than 715 cases in a two-week period (two-week incidence of 100 per 100,000), the variance is automatically rescinded. Additionally, CDPHE reserves the right to modify or rescind this variance approval as El Paso County Variance May 23, 2020 circumstances warrant.

This approval is in effect until the final expiration of Public Health Order 20-28, which will be extended in some capacity beyond the current expiration date next week.

Restaurants in need of technical assistance or guidance should call (719) 578-3167, or visit El Paso County Public Health’s website at [].

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