By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Nearly 400 businesses in Denver County have applied for the state’s 5 Star Certification Program and more than 60 are certified. Business owners say the application process is complex. Some already see the value while others wonder if it will make a significant difference.

(credit: CBS)

“People really, really wanted to get out, they missed, you know, being able to socialize, be out of the house,” said Marla Yetka, co-owner of Bigsby’s Folly Craft Winery & Restaurant. “It was a lot of work, but we really feel like it was worth it.”

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Yekta says business improved significantly once Gov. Jared Polis lifted level Red restrictions this winter. Her restaurant is in an 8,000 square foot facility with multiple rooms.

Under the 5 Star Program guidelines, the restaurant can operate at 50 percent capacity with a limit of 50 people. The occupancy limit applies to all rooms, no matter the size. Currently, about 800 to 900 people dine at the restaurant each week.

(credit: CBS)

There an upfront cost to apply for the certification, along with buying signs and sanitizer, and upgrading the HVAC system. Yetka had to hire more staff to monitor conditions and implement a new reservation system to stay compliant.

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Bigsby’s Folly has had to lay off staff twice due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“We’re not just meeting guidelines, we’re exceeding guidelines,” she told CBS4 on Monday of the decision to get certified. “It was a benefit, it’s a benefit to do whatever we can to keep our employees safe.”

Marla Yetka (credit: CBS)

Some restaurants shared with CBS4 that it was frustrating to spend the money and time getting certified only for the governor to reduce restrictions and watch Denver County move to level Yellow.

There is some security if restrictions go up. Yetka said they can use the certification to keep the restaurant open to more customers. Yetka also explained that once 70 percent of people 70 and older are vaccinated, capacity restrictions may be reduced even more.

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“It is safe to come here and we’re doing every little bit that we can to make that experience a good one,” Yetka said.

Shawn Chitnis