(CBS4) – Colorado counties are getting a better idea of what will be involved when the state likely opens up a “Five Star” system for businesses to apply for variances for greater opening. A draft proposal that came out in late November offers businesses the opportunity to meet tougher standards. Now counties have to reply to a checklist of points about management and enforcement.

“We’re trying to figure out how we meet the administrative needs of a program like this. And we’re starting to brainstorm what this is going to look like in Denver,” said Danica Lee, director of public health investigations for the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment.

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The checklist asks counties for a list of information, including how the program will be administered, what resources a city or county will be able to devote to the program and determining how to ensure compliance and enforcement.

“It would allow us to bring some employees back,” said Kevin Burke, director of operations for Culinary Creative, a restaurant group that includes Bar Dough, Senor Bear and Ash’Kara in Denver’s Highlands.

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“We’ve kind of been made a scapegoat,” he said about restaurants.

Outbreak data shows restaurants that have had COVID, but the source is often community spread.

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“It’s a young person’s game and a lot of our staff live in multi-family, multi-generational homes,” he said.

COVID cases have spread more easily among those less likely to be symptomatic.

“People under that age of 40 at a lower income level that may or may not have health insurance and they basically describe to a tee, all of my colleagues.”

The restaurants, he says, will take a look at potentially seeking Gold Star level status.

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“Maybe. I mean we’d have to evaluate it, We’d have to run the numbers on it. … If we thought we could execute service in a way that would be safe for our staff and safe for the guests, they engage in, then I think we’d apply for it.”

The restaurants already adhere to standards, so it wouldn’t be far to go.

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“I do think that restaurants have a lot of measures in place that are going to be similar to a Five Star program,” said Lee. But cities and counties are likely to face cost to implement it. Putting that into place could take time. Denver, Arapahoe County, Jefferson County and others say it will likely be after the New Year before the option might be put into place. “We’re so busy with contact tracing, outbreak response, case investigation, so we do have a lot of figure out but we also have some very motivated partners and I’m confident we’ll have something in place,” said Lee.

Alan Gionet