Signs hang in the window of a bar regarding safety measures during the coronavirus pandemic Thursday, June 18, 2020, in downtown Denver.
This story has been updated to reflect the Colorado Restaurant Association’s most recent survey data.
(The Center Square) — A Denver judge ruled Thursday that a statewide last-call for alcohol sales order won’t be halted.
Denver District Court Judge Brian Whitney denied a temporary restraining order request against the order, marking a blow for bar owners in the state who challenged Gov. Jared Polis’ order that made last call for alcohol purchases at bars and restaurants 10 p.m. and restricted indoor capacity.
The lawsuit was brought last week by the trade group Tavern League of Colorado, which called the rules “arbitrary and capricious.”
“Today did not go as we had hoped. Unfortunately, the state was given a shocking amount of deference in spite of a surprising lack of data to justify either the 10:00 p.m. cease of alcohol sales or the 50 person indoor capacity limit,” Tavern League Executive Director Stephanie Fransen said in a statement. “Judge Whitney did acknowledge the arbitrary nature of 10:00 p.m. but ultimately sided with the [Colorado Department of Health and Environment] and Governor Polis.”
“Colorado’s restaurants and bars have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and these two policies will have a direct impact on their ability to keep their doors open,” she added. “Sadly, today did not provide any relief to these businesses already struggling to survive.”
Polis said during a press briefing Thursday ahead of the ruling “that it’s outrageous that bars have to close at 10 o’clock and that we can’t have our normal nightlife.”
Going out and getting drunk at bars “is not inconsistent with maintaining proper social distancing and being safe,” Polis said, noting that the order is one of the more “minimal interventions.”
Restaurants and bars were required to close dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Polis signed an order allowing to-go alcoholic beverages. Lawmakers later passed legislation extending alcohol to-go and delivery service for two years as a way to help the industry recover economically.
The governor ordered that bars re-close to indoor sit-down services in June, citing increasing COVID-19 cases.
Colorado’s restaurant industry saw 173,000 employees – 73 percent of the industry in the state – let go or furloughed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an April survey by the National Restaurant Association.
Colorado’s restaurant industry has lost 87,000 jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to a July survey from the Colorado Restaurant Association.