Rifle City Council locks in support for 5-Star business variance program
After Garfield County commissioners on Jan. 4 approved to seek permission from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to adopt a 5-Star business variance program, the city of Rifle on Wednesday opted to follow suit.
The approved letter of support seeks leniency for local businesses and restaurants required to follow COVID-19 regulations implemented by Gov. Jared Polis. City Manager Scott Hahn said that the state will allow for these establishments to operate under the less-strict conditions, if they follow certain precautions and stipulations.
With COVID-19 cases continuing to see drops across Garfield County, the state dial metric went from red to a less-severe level orange Jan. 4. The metric allows restaurants to operate at 25% capacity — even though some local restaurants have continued to operate at 50%.
If the 5-Star program was currently implemented, that would mean Rifle bars and restaurants could operate at a less-severe level yellow. Yellow allows for all establishments to legally operate at 50% capacity, while last call would extend 11 p.m.
Hahn said, however, that the 5-Star program does set a high level of standards.
“I had some comments from some restaurants — if they had to comply with that, they’d have to be out of business,” he said.
Another concern regarding the 5-Star standard relates to HVAC system improvements. The council worried that if in fact a business is required to make improvements to their HVAC system, it could become too burdensome.
If and once the 5-Star program is officially implemented, Hahn said that the city will not be responsible for making inspections.
“If the restaurant can’t comply or doesn’t want to comply with that, that’s up to them,” he said. “But that’s not something that we’re going to dive into.”
The council’s approval for the letter of support comes just as officials have recently been contacting restaurants across the city of Rifle, threatening to enforce COVID-19 regulations that would hamper indoor dining, said Rifle City Clerk Kristi Doll.
“They were pretty upset, because the county was in orange and liquor enforcement contacted almost every liquor-license establishment in Rifle,” she said of local restaurants. “(They’d said) if you serve indoors, we will suspend your liquor license.”
Hahn said he continues to meet with county and other city officials to determine the language and potential costs of the 5-Star program.
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Officer Haley Walker sat beside her stepmother in a windowless interrogation room just before starting the overnight shift on Thursday evening.