Variance granted for El Paso County restaurants to open to 50% capacity

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EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. – Restaurants in El Paso County will be able to open Sunday to 50% capacity after the state granted a variance Saturday that was requested earlier this week.

People will need to be at least six feet apart and restaurants will not be allowed to seat more than 50 people indoors at any given time. They will also only be allowed to have half their normal occupancy code inside the building at a time.

The variance request was submitted Monday by the county. Colorado Department of Public Health Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan wrote that the county application “describes a robust public health system with continuing collaboration with community partners to ensure that testing capacity, epidemiological response, PPE resources, and healthcare infrastructure remain stable and sufficient to meet community needs.”

Groups will be limited to 10 people or less and must be from the same household or social group, the county said.

Restaurants will be required to take reservations, including walk-in reservations, and will be encouraged to record and maintain the name and phone number of one adult per party, the table assignment, and seating and departure times for 21 days in order to contact trace in the event a guest or employee gets sick with COVID-19.

The county said that such information would only be provided to the county public health department upon request.

Bar seating will not be allowed unless at least six feet of distance can be maintained.

Multiple-use containers will be prohibited and only plated or carry-out meals will be allowed to be provided to customers. All common surfaces will have to be cleaned and disinfected every 2 hours.

Employees who come within range of other employees or customers will be required to wear a cloth face covering unless they have health reasons not to do so. Businesses “must make every effort” to provide employees with masks, the county said.

If El Paso County has more than 715 cases in a two-week period, then the variance will automatically be rescinded.

“Our agency is grateful for our partnerships with the Chamber & EDC and the Pikes Peak Chapter of the Colorado Restaurant Association, whose expertise helped expedite the development and quality of this variance request,” said Susan Wheelan, El Paso County Public Health Director. “We are also thankful for the efforts of the El Paso County Board of Commissioners in advocating for this proposal, and the support of local hospitals in their diligent review of the request.”

As of Sunday morning, variances had been granted to 30 counties, including multiple variances in some counties.