Gov. Polis Pushes Back Last Call For Alcohol In Colorado By One Hour

Restaurants Allowed to Reopen Rioja Larimer Square
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Bartender John Armstrong is a busy blur at Rioja on Friday, May 29, 2020, after the state eased restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

Colorado's last call for alcohol at bars and restaurants is now 11 p.m. That gives people an extra hour to order and consume drinks starting Saturday.

Gov. Jared Polis' previous executive order, put in place to try to curb the spread of COVID-19, was set to expire Aug. 21. Polis announced the new order Friday during his latest press briefing on the state's coronavirus response.

"What's important is the social environment," he said.

The governor added that it's OK when patrons go to an establishment and only interact with the people they came with. But the activity becomes riskier when the environment is more "free-wheeling" and one person is able to interact with many individuals.

An outbreak in that situation "would devastate bars and nightlife and restaurants," he said.

Bars and restaurants located in a county that's been issued a variance to statewide orders can follow their local guidelines instead. Establishments must stop also selling alcohol for takeout at 11 p.m. but it can still be delivered after that. The order doesn't apply to liquor stores.

State epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy said recent data show a drop in COVID-19 cases among 20 to 29-year-olds. 

"And that of course is the age group that we know that is spending more time in bar and restaurant type settings later in the evening," she said.

The 10 p.m. rule first went into effect one month ago after public health data showed people between ages 20 and 29 were leading the spread of coronavirus cases in the state. At the time, Polis urged young adults to avoid crowds and instead gather with just a few friends instead.

"Don't worry. You're 22. Now you'll still be young," Polis said when he announced the order on July 21. "You'll be able to have fun, but now is not the time.”

On Friday, Polis said he will consider moving the time of last call back to midnight in a month if the state's COVID-19 case data continues to improve.

This is a developing story and will be updated.