BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – The owners of bars and restaurants in Boulder now have to make changes because of the growing spread of COVID-19 — largely among young people. For the next 13 days, the city health department will prohibit alcohol sales after 10 p.m.
The change was announced Friday in an emergency order and only applies to restaurants and bars. According to a city release, COVID-19 cases have been on the rise for three weeks and the intent of the order is to “slow the increasing spread of coronavirus among young people in Boulder.”
On Saturday, some restaurants and bars were unhappy with how little notice they received from the city and many others were frustrated with losing a valuable hour of sales.
One of those establishments is the well-known Dark Horse, located off Baseline Road between the main CU campus and Williams Village. Manager, Matt Poppens, said the bar doing “better than we expected” until Boulder banned gatherings of 18-22 year-olds and then temporarily changed last call.
“It hurts all of us here,” Poppens said. “We’re all pooling tips, everyone gets the same amount of money. If we can’t have that extra money, it hurts us all.”
While Poppens says that hour alone makes up about 30% of daily sales, the city says alcohol can play a part in social gatherings.
In a release sent out Friday, Boulder’s city manager, Jane Brautigam, said the city is hoping the emergency order will “curb the current case increase” that’s mostly occurring among younger people.
“We understand that this order may be frustrating for bars and restaurants that sell alcohol, but the intent is to prevent the city from reverting to Safer at Home Level 3, which would place a further burden on local businesses,” Brautigam said.
The Outback Saloon, located off 28th Street, is not typically a hot spot for CU students, so the ban on gatherings of 18 to 22 year olds likely won’t hurt sales. The adjustment of last call is another story.
General Manager, Matt Wolvington, said some nights 30-50% of his sales are between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.
“So, you take that hour away from the bottom line of the business, you also take that hour away from the employees’ bottom line as well,” he said.
Still, Wolvington says he understands the city’s decision to use this tactic to curb the spread of COVID-19. In the spring, he was hospitalized during a serious bout with the virus.
“Yeah it’s frustrating to be shut down an extra hour, but it’s more frustrating to keep having to do this,” Wolvington said. “Until people can start to behave how they’re supposed to, this is unfortunately going to continue.”
No matter the frustration or loss of sales, the Outback Saloon, Dark Horse, and 197 other bars and restaurants in Boulder have no choice but to make it work.
“We will follow the rules, whatever they tell us to do,” said Poppens. “Absolutely 100% we’re happy to comply.”
Unless it is amended or extended, the order will remain in effect until Oct. 8 at noon. The current order by Gov. Jared Polis ends alcohol consumption at bars and restaurants in Colorado at 11 p.m.