Restaurants in Level Red Allowed to Operate in Level Orange - Effective 1/4/2021 January 05,2021

On December 30, 2020, Governor Polis announced that ALL counties that were in Level Red are allowed to operate under the Level Orange restrictions starting January 4, 2021. You do not need permission or a health inspection in order to open at Level Orange restrictions, nor do you need to wait for any further official announcement from the Governor or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) before opening - CDPHE sent notice of the change to local officials last week. We’ve heard from some of you that your local public health officials are saying they need further confirmation from the state before allowing you to open at 25% indoor capacity. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) confirmed with us today that these counties do not need any additional information, and all restaurants in those counties are permitted to open at Level Orange restrictions. CDPHE is working to spread the word to those counties.
As a reminder, Level Orange restrictions stipulate:

  • 25% of capacity, up to 50 people indoors, per room, whichever is less. A room is defined as four walls and a door. Rooms on two separate floors separated by a staircase (not just a few steps) are also counted as separate spaces.
  • Party size: No more than 10 people per table.
  • Number of households per party: There are no restrictions on how many households can dine together in the state guidance, although some counties may choose to enforce tighter restrictions. For example, Summit County has a local public health order prohibiting more than two households from dining together in a restaurant.
  • Last call for alcohol sales moves to 10 p.m. for dine-in and takeout service. Last Call was defined from liquor enforcement as when you can order your drinks – not when they are served. So, for example, if a drink is ordered and recorded in your POS system at 9:55 p.m., it can be delivered at 10:05 p.m. and the guest can finish consuming it after that. (NOTE: Some counties have opted to be more restrictive. Check with your county on their last call requirements -- for example, Summit County is restricting alcohol consumption and possession at 9:30 p.m.) Restaurants still need to use appropriate judgement to ensure customers are not being over-served after 10 p.m.
  • Delivery of alcohol can continue until 2 a.m.
  • Spacing: Six-foot spacing between parties.
  • Bar seating is allowed as long as you are not preparing drinks or food closer than six feet from guests (this includes tap handles, wells, locations where glassware is stored, handwashing sinks, and anything else used to prepare food and drinks), and parties are spaced six feet apart.
Restaurants should adhere to all other requirements, such as requiring employees to wear masks at all times, sanitizing high touch surfaces frequently, maintaining six feet of spacing between parties waiting for a table, limiting gatherings indoors of customers waiting for tables, and requiring customers to wear masks while not at their table.

You can read the most recent Public Health Order related to Level Orange here - find restaurant guidance on page 12 and full restaurant guidance in Appendix H on page 54.

How do I know where my county falls on the scale?  For a list of counties and their current dial levels, go here. (If you are in RED on this dial, you may go to ORANGE today.)

How does this change impact those in the 5 Star Certification Program? One of the most common questions we are hearing is whether 5 Star-certified restaurants located in counties that were in RED, and will now be moved to ORANGE while their metrics are still technically in RED, can open in YELLOW. According to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE), they cannot.  This means that any restaurant that was approved for the 5 Star program in a county that was moved to level orange today must continue to operate under level orange guidelines. They DO NOT automatically move to level yellow.
  • As described in the ​policy framework​ for 5 Star, a county must actually meet their level’s metrics in order to operate in the next least-restrictive level. This is because, for example, if a county’s metrics are technically in RED, but a business is operating in YELLOW, then it would be operating two levels up, not just one.
  • Some counties with 5 Star programs are quickly approaching or achieving ORANGE level metrics, bolstered by strong public health actions and trends and strong compliance from the business community.
  • The framework also typically requires a 2-week trend in ORANGE-level metrics in order for 5 Star businesses to open in YELLOW.
  • However, as all counties that are RED move to ORANGE, ​CDPHE is now allowing counties that have​ ​already sustained a ​7-day trend​ in ORANGE and who are operating a 5 Star program will be allowed to open those certified businesses in YELLOW. We are currently working to find out which counties operating 5 Star programs currently or will soon qualify and will let you know as soon as we find out. Therefore, CDPHE is recommending that if you are a 5-Star business, you continue to operate under those more stringent guidelines in order to take advantage of a possible move in the coming days.
  • All non-5 Star certified businesses must remain in ORANGE.
  • Counties that have yet to sustain a 7-day trend in ORANGE metrics that have a 5 Star program will need to wait until they achieve a 7-day trend in ORANGE before those businesses can move to YELLOW.
  • CDPHE will actively monitor if this is successful, and explore other instances in their policy where 7-day metrics may be more applicable than 14-day metrics as they walk the line between public health and economic response. 
Please know that details are changing daily. If we get more and/or different information, we will notify you. 

Click here to see the letter that CDPHE sent to local public health officials last week.

We know the uncertainty is frustrating. We are frustrated too. We are working hard to get answers for you as quickly as possible. Please reach out to us at with questions.

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