By Conor McCue

DENVER (CBS4)– The City and County of Denver has applied for Colorado’s Five Star Certification program. Depending on where a business’s county falls on the COVID-19 dial, Five Star Certified businesses are eligible for less restrictive capacity caps.

Denver is in Level Red but will move to Level Orange as part of Gov. Jared Polis’ announcement that Colorado’s counties in Level Red on the COVID-19 dial are going to Level Orange on Jan. 4.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock submitted a letter to the Denver City Council outlining the city’s application for the Five Star program.

“We have too many unemployed residents, too many small businesses at risk of shutting their doors permanently and too many livelihoods at stake to reject this opportunity. We also have an obligation to keep COVID-19 from spiking disastrously and taking lives,” Hancock said in the letter. “This application will not jeopardize that overriding priority.”

According to Denver Economic Development & Opportunity, the Five Star Administrative Committee will rely upon several external partners to administer the program. Through a contract with VISIT DENVER, H2 Manufacturing Solutions, will provide program compliance and enforcement services, including reviewing and approving business applications for the program and providing training and deploying and overseeing volunteers to conduct on-site inspections before applicants can be certified.

“It validates a lot of the things that we’ve been doing since March,” said Eric Hyatt, owner of Angelo’s Taverna on 6th Avenue. “It’s going to allow us the opportunity to ramp up to get more business, to serve more of our community, and to keep our staff working.”

Throughout the weeks Denver has operated at Level Red restrictions, Angelo’s Taverna has made do with takeout and an outdoor dining set up that includes five greenhouses.

If the city’s Five Star program is approved by the state, Hyatt will apply. Hyatt and the rest of the ownership group is already familiar with the process. Their other locations in Breckenridge, Carboy Winery Breckenridge and the Gold Pan Saloon, have been certified to operate under Summit County’s Five Star program, which was approved by the state two weeks ago.

Hyatt estimated the Summit County location has seen an increase in profits of between 25 and 40 percent.

“It definitely helps our bottom line being able to have more revenue coming in for sure,” Hyatt said. “Our staff is excited because the staff up there has been holding on and scraping by, and now they have the opportunity to start paying their bills.”

Now that Level Red counties are moving to Orange, businesses were hoping their Five Star Certifications would allow them to operate at Level Yellow restrictions. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says it’s not that simple. Even though Polis deemed Level Red counties back to Level Orange, CDPHE says these counties still haven’t met the Level Orange metrics in the state’s public health order.

CDPHE says it’s still a good idea to get Five Star applications submitted now, so businesses can be prepared to operate with fewer restrictions once the county meets the Level Orange metrics specified in the public health order.

Conor McCue