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Local restaurants react as indoor dining comes back amid COVID-19 pandemic

Updated Colorado COVID-19 dial
Posted at 12:48 PM, Jan 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-05 11:29:15-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Pueblo County is among many of the Red Counties moving to Level Orange on the COVID-19 dial on Jan 4.

Mayor Nick Gradisar said he is "relieved" that this move will provide relief to businesses.

"However true relief from the virus will only come when we reach herd immunity and large numbers of Puebloans are vaccinated. Puebloans must remain vigilant to wear their masks, limit social interactions, and get tested and isolate when symptomatic," he said in a release. "I am hopeful we can continue this momentum so can we increase capacity to even more of our economy over the coming months. Let’s keep this going Pueblo.”

For a county to qualify to be in Level Orange, there must be:

  • A 15% positivity rate or less
  • 175-350 cases per 100,000
  • Greater than two new COVID-19 hospital admissions per day

The Hangar Bar and Grill is one of many restaurants that has struggled during the Level Red phase. The restaurant had to cut-back their hours to only weekends to make up for the lack of income. Co-owner Shawn Valencia says there was even a point in time during the pandemic where she was worried the Hangar would close permanently.

“It was scary cause you put your whole life into it, and then all of a sudden one day it will be gone. I mean, you can only go so long without revenue.”

However, even with limited indoor dining, Valencia says she is worried that there will not be enough business to keep the Hangar flying.

"Hopefully we can go back to the 50% because 25% is rough. It’s rough. You’re open all those hours... It’s really not enough, but if it’s all we can get, then it’s what we’re going to do.”

The Hangar chose not to open today, saying "it was such short notice" and instead spent the day prepping. They will open for indoor dining on January 5th at 8:00 am.

The following guidelines are set for dining in Level Orange:

  • Restaurants may operate at 25% of the posted occupancy limit indoors not to exceed 50 people excluding staff, whichever is less, per room.
  • For an indoor event at your establishment where patrons will not remain seated throughout the event, may allow up to 25 people within their usable space calculated using the Distancing Space Calculator per room, excluding staff.
  • If there is an event being held at your establishment where everyone is remaining seated and food is being served, you may follow Appendix H:Restaurants, from the PHO 20-36 and keep 6 feet between parties.

El Paso County health officials confirmed on Thursday morning that the county would be moving to Level Orange on Monday.

The manager of Jack Quinn's Irish Pub and Restaurant in Colorado Springs told News5 there has been a lot of preparation and planning to re-open to indoor dining. Customers haven't been allowed to sit inside and dine-in since November. In that time, the restaurant laid off a lot of employees.

"It's been a quick turn-around. (We were) scrambling. We had to lay off a lot of our staff, waiters, bartenders, and servers, so my first call was to all of them," said Meredith Klube, the pub's business manager and event coordinator, "We moved all of our administrative office things downstairs, so there was some clutter, some projects and cleanup we had to do."

For more information on the Colorado COVID-19 Dial, click here.