Last call restrictions loosened, but industry group wants them lifted

Handful of counties return to 2 a.m. alcohol cut-off

(Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)

Bars in some areas of the state with low COVID-19 transmission are now allowed to serve alcohol until midnight under an executive order that Gov. Jared Polis amended and extended Sept. 20.

The order allowed the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to set last-call times before 2 a.m. for counties under different “Safer at Home” levels of Colorado’s dial framework for determining COVID-19 restrictions.

Counties under Safer at Home: Level 1 can now allow restaurants to serve alcohol until midnight, while those under Safer at Home: Level 2 must continue to set last call at 11 p.m. or earlier, according to a statement from Polis’ office.

Some of those under Safer at Home: Level 1 as of Sept. 21 include Arapahoe, Douglas, El Paso, Larimer, Fremont and Delta counties. Most other counties — including Denver, Boulder, Broomfield, Adams and Jefferson — are under Safer at Home: Level 2 and will have to continue setting last call at 11 p.m., the time mandated by a previous executive order from Polis.

Dial dashboard
This screenshot of CDPHE’s COVID-19 dial dashboard was taken on Sept. 17. Green counties have received Protect Our Neighbors status. Blue counties are under Safer at Home: Level 1, and yellow counties are in Safer at Home: Level 2. (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment)

No counties are currently under Safer at Home: Level 3, but if any were moved to that more restrictive level in the coming weeks based on their level of virus transmission, they’d have to set last call at 10 p.m.

A handful of counties under Protect Our Neighbors, the least restrictive level, can allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol until 2 a.m. Those include Moffat, Rio Blanco, Mesa, Gilpin and Gunnison counties.

Pushback from industry

Polis first issued a last-call order July 21, when he ordered restaurants to stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m. to slow down transmission of COVID-19 among young adults. He extended and amended that order on Aug. 21, changing last call to 11 p.m.

In August, Polis expressed a desire to extend last call to midnight within the following month. A month later, he’s granting that ability to counties based on where they fall under the state’s new dial framework.

The last-call orders have drawn pushback from the industry, including The Tavern League of Colorado, an advocate for Colorado businesses that serve alcohol. The organization tried to sue the Polis administration over the first last-call order in July, but a judge ruled in favor of the restrictions.

  The data we have seen statewide still does not support the need to impose an early ‘last call.'   -Stephanie Hicks, of The Tavern League

“While we understand the rationale behind tailoring each county’s phase of reopening, the data we have seen statewide still does not support the need to impose an early ‘last call,’” Stephanie Hicks, The Tavern League’s executive director, said Sept. 21 in an emailed statement.

“The Tavern League has long opposed different ‘last call’ and/or closing times for bars and restaurants depending on their municipal location,” she continued. “Creating a patchwork throughout the state will further exacerbate the reality of winners and losers in a time when every single dollar counts.”

Whether a county falls under Stay at Home, the most restrictive level and red part of the “dial”; Safer at Home levels 1 (blue), 2 (yellow) or 3 (orange), in the middle range of the dial; or Protect Our Neighbors, the least restrictive level and green part of the dial, depends on three main factors:

• the percent of positive tests
• the amount of cases occurring within a two-week period
• whether hospitalizations for COVID-19 are stable or declining

dial system
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has launched a new ‘dial’ system for tailoring its coronavirus response to different areas of the state. (Office of Governor Jared Polis)

Counties under Safer at Home: Level 1 have fewer than 75 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people over two weeks. Counties under Safer at Home: Level 2 have between 75 and 175 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people reported over two weeks.

It takes a waiting period of at least two weeks before a county can actually move from one level to another on the dial.

Counties were assigned levels by CDPHE on Sept. 15.

Sept. 29 is the earliest they can submit letters requesting a new level designation.