As of the weekend, drinkers at bars and restaurants around Colorado will have one more hour to order alcohol. Governor Jared Polis announced on Friday that last call has moved from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. starting Saturday evening.
“I’m very hopeful that within a month that can then go to midnight,” Polis added. “But hopefully it will provide folks a little more breathing room to get to 11 p.m. last call.”
Bar owners who spoke to The Denver Post earlier this week said they were hoping for news of a midnight last call in time for the end of summer and as the governor’s original 30-day 10 p.m. order expired.
RELATED: Bar owners across Denver pray for later last call as Polis’ 10 p.m. order expires
“If it’s midnight, I’ll be happy,” Angela Neri, who owns the Lower Downtown Denver bar Pony Up, told The Denver Post on Wednesday. “If it’s 11 p.m., I’ll be okay. But if 10 o’clock gets extended… I’ll be concerned each month. Another month would be a huge struggle for me.”
Neri and other bar owners reported that their sales were down 50-80% heading into the end of summer, with as much as 75% lower sales during the last 30 days, following the 10 p.m. last call order.
For her part, Neri had already been enforcing last call at midnight prior to the governor’s 10 p.m. order “because we did have the sense that there was a shift in people later than that,” she said. “So we didn’t ever change and go to either 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., but 12 a.m. makes all the difference. Those two hours are everything.”
Pony Up is located in the middle of a popular nightlife district, just blocks from Coors Field and as close to Union Station and downtown office buildings. The area has been especially hard-hit due to a loss of foot traffic during the pandemic.
“People don’t want to be around that (LoDo) atmosphere,” Neri said, “so it makes it hard because that is our location, but we are not that type of bar, and we’re taking things very seriously.”
At the time Polis announced the 10 p.m. last call on July 21, the 20-29 age group was leading Colorado’s coronavirus cases, and the number of new COVID-19 infections across the state had been on the rise for five weeks straight.
“We want to send the right message here,” Polis said at the time, “as well as directly impact the piece that’s occurring as a result of late-night inhibitions.”
At Friday’s press conference, Polis and State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said they are encouraged by a shift over the last month in demographic data of the virus’ spread.
“I think most specifically, we’ve seen a substantial decrease in the number of cases occurring among 20-29-year-olds,” Herlihy said. “And that of course is the age group we know that is spending more time in bar and restaurant settings later in the evening.”
The governor responded to a question about returning college students affecting this downward trend, saying he is still very concerned about an uptick as students move back onto college campuses. But that’s a “more difficult piece” to track and control, he added regarding private parties and gatherings.
As of August 16, bars, restaurants and entertainment venues accounted for just over 12% of setting-specific outbreaks across Colorado, according to the state’s data, while gatherings and social events accounted for just over 2%.
When asked during the press conference why last call could only push back to 11 p.m., as opposed to midnight, Polis said he hopes to allow for a midnight last call within a month, by the end of September.
“Look, I’m for extending it to 4 in the morning,” he went on, referring to a longterm plan that he has suggested to the Colorado legislature. “But yeah, I agree that these are outrageous steps that are being taken.”
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