NewsCovering Colorado


El Paso County moves forward with 5 Star variance program for restaurants

Posted at 7:14 PM, Dec 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 21:14:31-05

EL PASO COUNTY — Some relief options are on the way for restaurants hit hard by COVID-19 capacity restrictions. Next week there is a return to limited indoor seating because the COVID-19 color coded threat status lowers from red to orange. Red requires no indoor seating at restaurants. Orange allows 25% capacity.

An emergency session held by El Paso County Commissioners could offer even more seating options. Commissioners gathered to vote on filing with the state for the 5 Star variance program. Restaurants that apply and qualify can possibly operate with more indoor capacity. While the state is at threat level orange for example, a qualified restaurant could operate at yellow, the next lower level. It allows 50% capacity.All the commissioners voiced reservations about the 5 Star program. "The resulting program ended up being different than organizers described to us," said Commissioner Longinos Gonzales.

El Paso County Commissioners had gone to Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Colorado’s Public Health Department with proposals for other ways to implement the program. “We were vocal opponents of it, saying you’re creating too much bureaucracy, it’s going to take you too much time, we need to get these restaurants open now,” said Commission Chair, Mark Waller. The say the problem is some requirements would require expensive remodeling type changes many already struggling businesses cannot afford.

Commissioners opted to vote and move forward, despite concerns. It is to give restaurant owners in a position to apply the option. "I believe they can decide that best for themselves," said Commissioner Cami Bremmer.