Pueblo County approved for 5-star variance, urge businesses to apply

Some business owners are all too happy to agree to extra precautions if that means extra...
Some business owners are all too happy to agree to extra precautions if that means extra customers can walk through their doors.(KKTV)
Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 9:13 AM MST
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PUEBLO, Colo. (KKTV) - Nearly 30 businesses across Pueblo County will soon be allowed to double the capacity Colorado restrictions currently allow.

The county, which includes the city of Pueblo, has been approved for the state’s five-star variance program. The program gives businesses within select counties the opportunity to add specific safety measures in order to operate at a higher capacity than the county’s dial level would otherwise allow.

“All businesses that have been five-star certified as of today will be allowed to operate in level yellow on the state dial as of today,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Garrison Ortiz. “Businesses that are not five-star certified continue to operate at whatever current level the county is in.”

Eligible restaurants and businesses will be allowed to operate at a 50 percent capacity. They will have to take extra precautions like having tables 10 feet apart, increased ventilation, and contact tracing -- things some business owners are all too happy to agree to.

“Going through the process, we were already doing 95 percent of the work, so the other 5 percent is very easy to adapt,” said Jennifer Priest with 1129 Spirits and Eatery. “I’m really excited.

Thirty more businesses are in the application process right now, and Ortiz is encouraging any business willing to go those extra miles for their patron to apply.

“Whether you’re a restaurant, whether you’re retail ... explore this program and what it means for you.”

Gyms, event centers and other non-restaurant and retail businesses are invited to apply.

“Any sort of business that would like to seek the certification,” Ortiz said.

Commissioners have a team standing by ready to help businesses with their applications.

“It means all the difference in the world for businesses that are operating at 25 percent capacity currently to be able to move to 50 percent,” Priest said.

Speaking as a business owner who has gone through the process, Priest said she understood why it could seem overwhelming, while urging her fellow owners to apply.

“There’s a lot to it. You need to rotate tables, you need to follow the 6 feet social distancing -- there’s a lot to it, but we have been doing it for a while so it shouldn’t be a problem. ... I know there’s some hesitancy to joining the program and I think we need to be clear: it’s simple, it’s very, very easy. We’re already doing the things that are part of the five-star program. It’s a no-brainer for everyone to join in and participate. When you get a checklist, it can seem overwhelming, but going through the process, it is extremely easy.”

Even after approval, there will be an inspection team making sure eligible businesses continue to apply.

The Southern Colorado Small Business Development Center will be holding classes to support businesses trying to overcome challenges to the five-star variance. The county is pulling state funds to pay for support resources up to a certain amount.

For more information and to apply for the program, click here.

El Paso County also applied for a five-star variance status. A spokesperson with the county tells 11 News the state required a few more documents before making a decision.

Douglas County was approved late last year.

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