(The Center Square) - Restaurants in Colorado can begin offering limited sit-in dining starting Thursday under new guidelines approved by Gov. Jared Polis.
Polis discussed the new guidelines, which were first released on Monday, during a Tuesday news briefing. Last week, the governor's administration released draft guidelines that were open to feedback from businesses.
"I want to acknowledge the pain that our restaurants have been through ... the level of economic activity around restaurants is very important for all of us," Polis said, noting about 300,000 people in Colorado are employed in the restaurant industry, which is about 10 percent of the state's total workforce.
A survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association in April found 173,000 restaurant employees in Colorado had been laid off or furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Restaurants in the state have been closed to dine-in service since March 16.
"Restaurants also fill an important societal and psychological benefit - it's not just about the economics," Polis said. "Humans are social beings. We need those personal interactions to stay mentally healthy and sharing a meal, breaking the bread."
Polis' plan limits indoor service at restaurants to 50 percent capacity and parties to eight individuals or less, which must stay six feet from other parties.
"Of course it's safer to have dinner in your home, but for those who are ready to go out, who want to go out, we want to make sure it's done in as safe a way as possible," he said.
Dining capacity can be made up in outdoor spaces under the guidelines and other changes to state rules limiting outdoor dining services, which will be suspended so more people can dine outside, Polis said.
The guidance also requires all employees to wear facemasks and all surfaces to be desensitized between parts.