Governor Polis Clarifies COVID Mandates and Current Restrictions

Local Businesses in Woodland Park Reacting to New Full Capacity Rules

Trevor Phipps

Colorado Governor Jared Polis recently ended the COVID-19 color-coded dial rules and gave local governments more control of restrictions.

When the move was first made, it was unclear exactly what the state would still regulate and what the counties had control of.

Early last week, the governor’s office outlined the rules regarding what would be imposed statewide. Other restrictions not put on the list could be implemented by local governments, but this hasn’t been the case in both Teller and El Paso counties.

Many local businesses are now starting to respond to the changes, which allow them more flexibility from an operational and capacity standpoint.

The main restriction that currently stays in place for most Colorado counties involves the requirement for everyone to wear masks in public buildings. However, the governor has allowed 30 counties with  per capita case rates  of 35 per 100,000 people to rescind the mask order. Teller County hasn’t been able to reach the lower limit level.

The governor may repeal the restriction, and let local governments decide when the current mask order ends next month.


The order also requires businesses and government entities to consider reasonable accommodations for people who cannot take the COVID-19 vaccination. The requirements include abiding by the mask order and following the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s (CDPHE) guidance on disease mitigation which includes hand washing and sanitization procedures.


The new health order also requires 6-foot social distancing for indoor public gatherings that exceed 100 people. The order also imposes a maximum capacity for indoor gatherings at 500 people unless a variance has been approved.


Exemptions to this rule include places of worship, retail settings, and some restaurants. If restaurants with indoor seated dining do not have areas where 100 people can congregate, then they too are exempt from the six-foot social distancing requirement.


Bringing Back the Pre-COVID Days

Locally, the change in the order means that most local restaurant and bar businesses can now serve alcohol until 2 a.m. and operate at 100 percent building capacity; and they are no longer required to block off tables or take steps to ensure 6-foot social distancing. Therefore, many businesses in Teller County have gone back to the way they operated before the pandemic struck.


The Historic Ute Inn in Woodland Park has been operating with just its bar side open and has had its dining room closed since last spring. Owner Elijah Murphy said that now that the state has loosened restrictions, he will be reopening the dining room part of the restaurant soon, but with a different business concept.


Carmen A Tapas in Woodland Park has also decided to open back up to 100 percent capacity. “We probably still are at about 60 percent of what we used to do,” owner Carlos Macis said. “Because there are a lot of people that aren’t going out still. But we are full-on and ready to go.”


During the COVID-19 regulations, fitness centers and restaurants were the two business that had to have limited capacities. Now in Teller County, that decision is up to the individual businesses.


According to an employee at the Woodland Fitness Center, the gym has not had to worry about capacity limits because they have not come close to surpassing even the 50 percent capacity limit. So, the fitness center will continue to operate the same since exceeding capacity was never an issue previously.


However, some local businesses have decided to still implement certain restrictions. An employee at Snap Fitness in Woodland Park said that they are still operating at only 50 percent capacity.


Some restaurants have also decided to keep social distancing requirements in place. For example, the Arby’s in Woodland Park still has several tables and seats in their dining room blocked off.


Despite the recent loosening of regulations, the pandemic restrictions have still taken a toll on the local restaurant industry. The Southern Lily in Woodland Park ceased operations due to the shut downs and they have not yet reopened their doors.


And, one of Woodland Park’s most famous eateries the Circle H Smokehouse, also closed due to capacity limits late last year. Recently, the town’s staple restaurant has been put up on the market for sale.