COVID-19 Policies and Protocols for the Colorado Restaurant Industry

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Read Our 2021 COVID Report
Vaccine/ Testing Emergency Temporary Standard
State Guidelines
Federal Relief
Advocacy Efforts
Sanitization & CDC Guidance

Read Our 2021 COVID-19 Report

  • Curious what the CRA has done since the start of the pandemic? Read our report here.

OSHA COVID-19 Vaccine/Testing Emergency Temporary Standard -- Updated 1/26/2022

On November 4, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for COVID-19 in the workplace. The hold placed on this ETS was lifted on December 17, 2021, delaying the compliance dates for qualifying businesses by five weeks. On January 25, 2022, following the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision blocking enforcement of the federal Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) that mandated employers with 100 or more employees to require COVID-19 vaccination or weekly testing, OSHA officially withdrew the ETS.

You can see the full withdrawal notice here.

State Guidelines

County Guidelines, Effective as of April 16

As of April 16, 2021, the State retired the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment-issued COVID-19 State dial and turned authority of COVID-19 operating restrictions over to local public health departments. To navigate your county's new guidelines for restaurants, view your local public health order here.

Below is current information for all Colorado counties with public health orders in place regulating mask use in restaurants:

  • Larimer County's mask mandate will expire at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, February 11, meaning masks will no longer be required starting on Saturday, February 12.
  • Jefferson County's mask mandate will expire on Friday, February 18.
  • Boulder County's public health order requiring masks in all indoor public spaces will remain in effect until COVID-19 transmission rates decrease to moderate or low levels for 21 consecutive days.
  • Pitkin County's public health order requiring masks in all indoor public spaces will remain in effect until COVID-19 transmission rates decrease to moderate or low levels for 21 consecutive days.

If your county does not have a mask mandate in place, restaurants' still have the ability to implement a mask or vaccine requirement in their individual establishments if that restaurant determines that is what is best for its staff and guests. 

If you do wish to maintain a mask requirement in your establishment, here is a poster that you can display to help inform your guests of your restaurant's policy.

Guidelines for Indoor/Outdoor Winter Dining, Issued September 24, 2020

See indoor/outdoor guidelines from the State here.
See our summary here
Listen to a webinar with the City of Denver on Denver's winter patio program here. See the presentation here.
To learn about local outdoor expansion programs, click here.

Federal Relief Programs

Restaurant Revitalization Fund

President Biden signed the $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) into law in March 2021 as a part of the American Rescue Plan Act. We would like to thank each and every one of you that lent your voice to the efforts of making this relief program a reality by responding to CRA surveys and calls to action. 

The RRF application process closed in June 2021 due to a lack of funds, leaving almost 60% of Colorado applicants without aid relief, for a deficit of more than $697 million. Click here to view Colorado RRF impact data from the National Restaurant Association.

We need you to tell Congress to refill the RRF to help our local businesses recover from the effects of the pandemic. Speak out here!

Watch our Restaurant Revitalization Fund Webinar with Senator Hickenlooper, the National Restaurant Association, the Small Business Administration, and Messner Reeves LLP here. View the presentation slides here and here
View a sample application  here.
View the application here.
View the Nat'l Restaurant Association's FAQ here.
View the SBA's program guide here.
View the SBA Knowledge Base here.

Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC)

For those unfamiliar with ERTC, here is a brief explainer:

Employers may qualify for tax credits even if they have already enrolled in the Paycheck Protection Program. Previously, businesses could only enroll in one program, but when the Consolidated Appropriations Act was passed, it amended the rules to allow employers access to both.

For 2020, employers can claim 50% of their employee’s wages, up to $5,000 per employee, per quarter. For 2021, they can claim up to 70% of eligible wages, to a maximum of $7,000 per employee, per quarter, for wages paid in 2021.

Changes to the rules defining what it means to be a small employer, for the purposes of the ERTC, allow companies with more employees to qualify. To be eligible as a small employer for 2020, companies must employ 100 or fewer full-time employees on average. For 2021, that number has increased to allow up to 500 or fewer full-time employees.

Business owners who have already filed their taxes for 2020 or 2021 may still claim their benefits by filing a 941-X form or contacting an ERTC specialist; reach out to us at and we will put you in touch with the right expert.

Many restaurants are eagerly awaiting COVID-19-related employee retention tax credit (ERTC) refunds. We know how challenging it is for restaurants waiting several months for a payment and we want to share some helpful information:

  • The CRA, in partnership with the National Restaurant Association (NRA), led calls for the IRS to speed ERTC refunds in a November 2021 letter. Restaurants continue to share this urgency with Congress and lawmakers are contacting the IRS. In February 2022, 216 legislators called the IRS backlog “devastating to small businesses” and asked the IRS to quickly process 500,000 amended Forms 941 so that ERTC refunds can be delivered.
  • What this means: Lawmakers are now increasingly concerned about the refund backlog getting worse in March and April.
  •  We and the NRA are supporting the “ERTC Reinstatement Act” (H.R. 6161), which simply restores ERTC eligibility for the fourth quarter of 2021. Currently, the House bill has 49 supporters – 21 Democrats and 28 Republicans – and the NRA expects a bipartisan Senate companion introduced as soon as February 10.
  • In a January survey, 60% of restaurant respondents said they experienced losses of 20% or more in quarter four of 2021 – which would make them eligible for the ERTC if this bill becomes law.
  • What this means: If quarter four is restored, ERTC would be available to any eligible small business, but restaurants are uniquely eligible due to economic headwinds.

If you have any questions or would like to enlist the help of one of our partners with the ERTC, please reach out to us at

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), an Small Business Administration-backed loan that helped businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 crisis, ended on May 31, 2021. Existing borrowers may be eligible for PPP loan forgiveness.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)

    • This federal small business loan program, administered through the Small Business Administration, supported small businesses’ recovery from the COVID-19 disaster’s economic impacts by providing accessible and borrower-friendly capital.
    • As of January 1, 2022, the SBA stopped accepting applications for new COVID-19 EIDL loans or advances but will continue to accept requests for increases, reconsideration, and appeals.
      Please get in touch at for assistance with EIDL questions, appeals, and/or concerns.


    A Colorado Restaurant Worker's Guide to Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

    In Colorado, restaurant workers are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine as of March 19, 2021 and COVID-19 booster shots as of September 24, 2021. View the State's vaccination guidance here. For an FAQ about COVID-19 vaccines, including questions about how the vaccine works, vaccine safety, and whether you need to be a U.S. citizen to receive the vaccine -- you do NOT need to be a citizen -- click here.

    Testing and Vaccine Resources From COVID Check Colorado

    COVID Check Colorado provides free and easy access to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. They have put together simple assets for you to share with your communities to help spread the word about the vaccine and testing -- how to access, effectiveness, immigration requirements, FAQs, etc. Flyers are available in 11 languages. 

    Click here to access the materials and here to download the flyer. You are encouraged to share these digitally or to print to help encourage more people in your networks to get vaccinated.

    Binax At-Home Rapid Testing Kits for Restaurant Workers

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is now offering free, at-home rapid COVID-19 testing to local food service employees and restaurant workers. Colorado is providing 2 million rapid Binax At-Home tests for eligible Coloradans to use, free of charge, while the state’s vaccination campaign progresses. This program is designed to provide easy access to testing with the goal of ensuring restaurants remain open, and employees feel safe at their place of work.
    Sign-up is simple – employees can go to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Binax At-Home website, where they’ll be directed to fill out this Google form asking for basic information. Within 24 hours of filling out the form, employees should receive an email from CDPHE, which will include instructions and a link to order a test. 
    These tests are available to all food services employees in Colorado with an email address. 
    Click here for more information, and click here to fill out the form to register.

    Free COVID Legal Help

    Denver-based law firm, Messner Reeves, is offering each Colorado restaurant up to four (4) hours of pro bono legal services to address issues arising from the pandemic. This offer is available to all Colorado Restaurant Association members. Areas of assistance include: 
    • Landlord/Tenant negotiations and lease review;
    • CARES Act/SBA Funding (PPP and EIDL loan applications, forgiveness and other issues surrounding the programs);
    • Vendor negotiations;
    • Policies & Procedures including employee and customer health, food safety, and other compliance requirements;
    • and more. 

    For members to access this assistance, send an email succinctly stating what your issue is to  

    Paycheck Protection Program Consultation

    Henry+Horne, a Phoenix metro area CPA and accounting firm, is offering Colorado Restaurant Association members a free consultation on COVID-19 relief funding, credits, and resources available for restaurant owners.

    We can help you with:

    • Pandemic accounting best practices
    • Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness application
    • Qualified improvement property and carryback of losses for tax refunds
    • Sales tax relief
    • Payroll tax credits

    Reach out directly to Brian Campbell at for help.

    Operational Webinars

    • Webinar on updated COVID-19 legal guidance and regulations for restaurants with Messner Reeves and Zedic and Zero Hour Health Services (August 26, 2021): Recording here, slides here

    • Watch our Restaurant Revitalization Fund Webinar with Senator Hickenlooper, the National Restaurant Association, the Small Business Administration, and Messner Reeves LLP (April 23, 2021). here. View the presentation slides here and here

    • Webinar on how to navigate unemployment fraud for restaurant operators (April 21, 2021): Recording here, slides here.

    • Webinar on second round of PPP funding (January 8, 2021): Recording here. Q&A report here.

    • Webinar on Denver's outdoor vs. indoor structure guidelines (January 6, 2021): Recording here, slides here
      Read the Q&A report here.

    • Webinar on new labor and employment laws taking effect in 2021 (December 18, 2020): Recording here, slides here, Q&A report here.
    • Webinar on employee safety considerations (June 18,2020): Recording here; slides here.

    • Webinar on employee liability considerations (June 22, 2020): Recording here.

    • Town hall with city of Denver on outdoor expansion program (May 19, 2020): Q&A document here, recording here, presentation slides here.

    • Town hall on reopening guidelines (May 26, 2020): recording here.

    • Town hall on advocacy efforts with the National Restaurant Association's Sean Kennedy (April 30, 2020)recording herenotes here.

    • Rent concerns (March 30, 2020): Tenant Rights & Remedies; click here.

    • Small business stimulus through the CARES Act (March 31, 2020): What This Means for Restaurants; click here.

    • CARES Act follow-up webinar, featuring officials from the SBA and Legal Resource Center partner Messner Reeves (April 13, 2020); click here.

    • Finding Balance During the Storm: Managing stress, anxiety, and depression during chaos (April 1, 2020); click here.

    • Pivoting Your Marketing Strategy for COVID-19 (April 2, 2020): click here

    • Town Hall meeting: Managing staff layoffs, furloughs, and reduced hours, and the truth behind insurance coverage (March 20, 2020): click here.

    Business Resources

    • Local Grants: click here.
    • CARES Act
      • The CRA's Guide to the CARES Act (April 2, 2020): click here.
      • Details on the federal CARES Act relief package, passed by the Senate March 25,2020: click here.
        • CARES Act Small Business explanation: click here.
        • CARES Act Small Business Owner's Guide: click here.
        • Title 1-Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed Act Section-by-section explanation: click here.
        • Clarification on rehiring and PPP forgiveness (5/5/2020): click here.
        • PPP fix passed (6/30/2020): click here.
      • Apply for Funds

        • Paycheck Protection Program Application (3/30/2020): click here. 
          • Paycheck Protection Program fact sheet for borrowers: click here.
        • Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Portal: click here.
          • Information about EIDL loans (3/20/2020): click here.
        • Small Business Development Centers, which can help with applications: click here.
        • 100 most active SBA lenders: click here.
      • SBA loans
    • Federal Relief Tax Benefits
      • TaxCreditsDefermentsandDeductionswebinar with partners Henry + Horne (4/16/2020)
    • Mask Poster 
      • If you need to implement a mask policy in your restaurant, here is a poster you can display to help enforce the policy.
    • On-Premise Best Practices for Restaurants and Food Services
      • For the Colorado Department of Public Health & Enivornment’s guidance on on-premise dining, click here.
    • Takeout and Delivery
      • Rules and recommendations for delivery, takeout, and drive-through (3/18/2020): click here.
        • How to implement delivery with your own staff: click here.
        • Safety guidelines for delivery drivers (4/14/2020): click here.
      • Alcohol delivery and takeout rules and recommendations, updated 6/24/21: click here.
        • Alcohol delivery and takeout resources (3/21/2020): click here.
        • Temporary Alcohol to-go and delivery passes legislature (6/23/2020): click here.
        • Alcohol to go made permanent through 2025: click here.
      • Rules for selling whole food and bulk products: click here.
      • Insurance considerations: click here.
    • Labor Law
      • Understanding Unemployment, click here.
      • Job Attached Unemployment and the workshare program: click here.
      • Business requirements for Families First Coronavirus Response Act: click here.
      • DOL Guidance on FFCRA Paid Leave from Fisher and Phillips: click here.
      • Updated Colorado paid sick leave rules: click here.
      • FFCRA Poster -- required April 1, 2020: click here.
      • Labor law FAQs and templates from Fisher and Phillips: click here.
      • Town Hall on Labor Law and Insurance Questions:
        • Unemployment fraud resources
          • CDLE's main fraud page.
          • Fraud reporting form for individuals.
          • Fraud reporting form for employers.
          • Employer services email address.
    • Rent Concerns and Tenant Rights and Remedies
    •  Sanitation
      • CDPHE recommendations for restaurants: click here.
      • Free ServSafe training video on COVID-19 considerations (English and Spanish): click here.
      • Sanitation recommendations from Auto-Chlor: click here.
    • Denver Business Support: click here.
    • Health and Mental Health Resources: click here.
    • Legal considerations related to COVID-19 from Messner Reevesclick here and click here.

    Employee Resources

    • For a full list of unemployment, underemployment, and other assistance, click here.
    • Jobs for displaced hospitality workers: click here. (To post a job, click here.)
    • Basic guide to unemployment: click here. Department of Labor's FAQ site about Unemployment: click here.
    • File for unemployment: click here
    • Colorado online application for food stamps and other various sources of assistance programs such as help with child care, cash assistance, and access to health care coverage: click here.
    • Health and Mental Health Resources: click here.

    Advocacy Efforts

    We're working on many pieces of relief on your behalf, and will keep a running list of our efforts and what has been accomplished here.

    Survey Results

    Past Town Halls With Elected Officials

    • Town Hall with Senator-Elect John Hickenlooper, November 20
    • Town Hall with Senator Michael Bennet, April 28
      • Recording here
    • Town Hall with Mayor Michael Hancock, April 17. 
    • Town Hall with Governor Jared Polis, April 6.
    • Town Hall with Senator Corey Gardner, April 3.
    We're working on many pieces of relief on your behalf, and will keep a running list of our efforts and what has been accomplished here.
    • Letters sent to elected officials: click here.
    • The CRA's Guide to the CARES Act: click here.
    • Details on the Federal relief package, passed by the Senate March 25: click here.
    • Webinar about what the CARES Act means for restaurants with Messner Reeves: click here.
    Sanitization and CDC Guidelines
    • CDC real-time updates: click here.
    • Updates from the State of Colorado: click here
    • Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment COVID-19 Recommendations: click here.
    • COVID-19 toolkit from the National Restaurant Association: click here.

    What You Can Do in Your Restaurant

    • As with all other illnesses and diseases, encourage your employees to stay home if they suspect they are sick or are showing symptoms of sickness.
    • Encourage employees to report symptoms from home and ask that they do not come in if they are feeling sick.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects including but not limited to tables, menus, POS systems, checkbooks, doorknobs, kitchen surfaces, restroom surfaces etc.
    • Increase hand washing. Consider implementing policies to wash hands at the top and bottom of the hour.
    • Provide 60% alcohol-based sanitizer for employees and customers.
    • Have a manager conduct a general “wellness check-in” at the start of each shift. Look for symptoms such as fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
    • There is initial testing that shows certain quat sanitizers that are not fully effective at eliminating and disinfecting COVID-19. Please call your distributor to confirm that the quat sanitizer you are using is effective against COVID-19.
    • If you need help fielding questions from the media, give us a call at 303-830-2972.
    • If you need talking points for guests, give us a call at 303-830-2972.

    It is very likely that restaurateurs are already using many of these techniques in their business. Programs such as ServSafe prepare restaurant managers and employees with the necessary skills to prevent the transmission of diseases such as COVID-19.

    If you are notified that a patron with transmittable COVID-19 has visited your restaurant and may have infected others, please call the CO HELP hotline at 1-877-462-2911 housed in the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The public health experts on the hotline will be able to offer further instructions and precautionary measures.

    If you have an employee who tests positive for COVID-19, contact your local public health agency and CDPHE (303-692-2700) immediately.

    Become a Member

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