Colorado finalizes '5 Star' program, giving restaurants chance at fewer COVID-19 restrictions

Posted at 6:32 PM, Dec 16, 2020

DENVER — Colorado health officials on Wednesday finalized a program that would allow restaurants to operate with fewer COVID-19 restrictions, if they meet health and safety requirements and are certified by their local public health agency.

The so-called 5 Star program would give restaurants and other businesses the opportunity to operate under less-restrictive conditions, depending on their county's level on the state's COVID-19 dial.

For example, certified restaurants in Denver — where the county is currently on Level Red — would be allowed to operate under Level Orange conditions, which include allowing some indoor dining. Level Red currently prohibits indoor dining.

Restaurants in Level Red counties would only be eligible to be certified for the program if their county sees a two-week decline in cases, positivity rate and hospitalizations. Each restaurant or business would still need to be certified, even if their county metrics meet those initial requirements.

Read the full program requirements here. The requirements to be certified include a bevy of sanitation, outbreak prevention and social distancing protocols that go beyond what's currently required of restaurants.

The 5 Star program gives counties the choice on whether they wish to carry it out. The local public health agency would then have to review and approve restaurants' applications, which can begin to be submitted on Friday.

Mesa County on Colorado's Western Slope has been operating a pilot 5 Star program for weeks, and the finalization Wednesday gives that option to all Colorado counties.

Only counties that reach Level Purple on the state COVID-19 dial would not be eligible for the program. No counties are on Level Purple.

Last week Mesa County officials encouraged state officials to bring the 5 Star program across the state.

“Implementing that program allows our businesses to stay open because they’re a good partner and it’s a good, safe place to go,” executive director of Mesa County Public Health, Jeff Kuhr, said.

Kuhr said his county’s 5-star program is working, pointing to data showing low transmission at restaurants. He claims it strikes an appropriate balance between keeping the virus at bay and keeping the county’s economy running. He added that he believes a version of the program should, and will, expand across the state.