By Andrea Flores

DENVER (CBS4) – Denver’s restaurants will be open to 100% capacity come Friday, but for smaller restaurants, like Bistro Vendome in Larimer Square, it may not make a difference.

“I believe that we are really going in the right direction,” said Beth Gruitch, a partner in a group that owns and operates four downtown Denver restaurants, including Bistro Vendome. “But we are still keeping six feet of distance between tables and that hasn’t changed. Even though the occupancy has gone up, we still can’t fit anymore in here because of that distancing rule.”

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Gruitch says even with 100% capacity allowed starting Friday, all four restaurants will only be at 25% capacity. While masks are still required indoors, people are not required to wear them outside under new regulations. She says lifting the outdoor mask mandate will cause confusion for diners when they’re in between the indoor and outdoor spaces.

“People are going to be even more forgetful about their mask, and not understanding why they still have to use it to wear it when they come into the restrooms to use the facility, or to come into the host stand,” said Gruitch.

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The Colorado Restaurant Association echoed Gruitch’s feelings toward the new dial in a statement released Wednesday:

READ MORE: COVID In Colorado: Governor's Office Lifts Face Mask Mandate For Those Who Are Vaccinated

“We are grateful to Colorado’s local public health agencies for pushing vaccinations out to the public–and to restaurant workers, in particular–and for working to reopen our local economies and help restaurants safely get back to 100% capacity. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting the restaurant industry on the path to economic recovery, and that recovery cannot even begin until restaurants resume operations at full capacity without social distancing.

“That said, the health and safety of the industry’s workers and customers has been front of mind since the onset of the pandemic, and we trust that local public health officials will work to ensure the safety of the industry and its customers as they reevaluate local public health orders in the coming days. Denver County loosening restrictions to ‘Level Blue’ as of Friday, April 16 and allowing restaurants to operate at 100% capacity with six-feet distancing still in place is a step forward for large restaurants and venues with ample square footage, but the six-foot distancing rules prevent small- to mid-size restaurants from being able to open at 100% capacity—and many restaurants will remain at below 50% capacity. Until the six-foot distancing requirements are lifted, most restaurants will be stuck operating between 25% and 50% capacity.

“Unfortunately, an unintended consequence of each county establishing their own guidelines will be the creation of a competitive advantage for restaurants located in counties with fewer restrictions and the potential loss of business for restaurants in surrounding counties with stricter safety guidelines. We also have concerns about the confusion that a patchwork of local public health orders will create both for the industry and diners. We encourage local public health agencies to work to clearly communicate these changes so that the industry and its workers are not responsible for educating their customers about the specifics of this rapidly changing regulatory landscape.”

Despite challenges with the new dial, Gruitch says she’s already seeing a shift in the restaurant industry.

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“We’ve had very little takeout, great reservations, people were out in droves, people are so happy to tell you they’ve been vaccinated,” Gruitch said. “They’re so happy to tell you that they’re out for the first time.”

Andrea Flores