A guide to reopening dine-in restaurants safely in Colorado

For nearly three months, the COVID-19 outbreak has limited Colorado restaurants to offering takeout and delivery only. Now, restaurants have received the green light to begin dine-in service again on Wednesday, May 27.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) guidance for reopening, issued May 24, 2020, aims to reduce person-to-person contact between diners and restaurant staff.

Follow these requirements and tips to prepare your restaurant and staff for reopening safely.

Indoor dine-in

The CDPHE COVID-19 requirements for indoor dine-in include:

  • Adhering to a maximum of 50 people or 50 percent seating capacity, whichever is less. 
  • Ensuring patrons in different parties are a minimum of six feet apart, including table spacing.
  • All employees must wear protective face coverings.
  • Shared surfaces must be disinfected and thoroughly cleaned between seatings.
  • Allow maximum ventilation of dining space by opening windows and minimizing air conditioner usage.
  • Do not allow parties to mingle with other patrons.

Tips to consider:

  • Encourage diners to make reservations.
  • Direct people waiting for tables to stay in their cars, calling or texting them when tables are ready.
  • Limit parties to eight or fewer.
  • Do not let people seat themselves.
  • Block off out-of-use tables and booths.

The guidance encourages the creation or expansion of outdoor dine-in service, allowing people to sit down to eat outside, where risk of coronavirus transmission is lower.

Outdoor dine-in 

The CDPHE COVID-19 requirements for outdoor dine-in include:

  • Ensuring patrons in different parties are a minimum of six feet apart, including table spacing.
  • All employees must wear protective face coverings
  • Shared surfaces must be disinfected and thoroughly cleaned between seatings

Restaurant layout and design

The new guidelines require restaurants to keep diners from different parties at least six feet apart at all times. To do this:

  • Space tables more than six feet apart and eliminate communal seating.
  • Use floor decals and tape to indicate the direction of foot traffic.
  • Eliminate buffets or self-serve stations.
  • Block off some bathroom stalls or urinals if necessary to keep people six feet apart.

To reduce shared surfaces and increase air circulation:

  • Implement contactless payment or prepayment options.
  • Switch to a board menu, disposable menus, or an online menu guests can access on their smart devices.
  • Remove games and activities that encourage touching or standing close together, like pool, darts, and board games.
  • Avoid running air conditioning and instead open windows, when possible.


Require employees to wear masks and food preparers to wear gloves as well. Additionally:

  • Put an employee in charge of symptom monitoring, such as temperature checks before shifts
  • Advise employees to stay home if they feel sick
  • Tell employees to bring home personal items after their shifts
  • Have one employee monitor guest and employee adherence to safety measures
  • Direct employees to wash their hands more often

Cleaning and disinfecting

Step up your establishment’s cleaning requirements:

  • Clean bathrooms hourly
  • Deep-clean shared surfaces, including tables and seats, between seatings
  • Disinfect cash registers and point of sale machines between uses
  • Skip tablecloths or use disposable ones you replace after each party leaves

Download Pinnacol's infographic "How to reopen dine-in Colorado restaurants safely" for an easy reference guide to help your establishment and staff when resuming dine-in service.

Have questions about implementing the guidance for your restaurant? Contact Pinnacol at safetyoncall@pinnacol.com for clarification or assistance.

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