Colorado Mandates 10 P.M. “Last Call” For Alcohol In Bars and Restaurants
“It’s the summer of no parties” Colorado Governor Polis said on July 21, 2020 while explaining that Colorado will order a 10 p.m. “last call” for alcohol for the next 30 days (unless extended by further order). Under Colorado’s Last Call Order, bars and restaurants may stay open later than 10 p.m., but they can only sell/serve food – not alcohol – after 10 p.m. Critically, the Order does not say that alcohol cannot be consumed after 1o p.m., just that it cannot be “sold” past that time. So, the Order is a true “last call” for alcohol and not a curfew.
Colorado’s Last Call Order will take effect at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, July 23, 2020 and will apply to all entities that are licensed to sell liquor in Colorado. “All [liquor] licensees contained in Articles 3, 4, and 5 of Title 44 of the Colorado Revised Statutes must cease alcohol beverage sales to end consumers at 10:00 P.M. each day,” the Executive Order reads.
“These same 20 to 29-year-olds are going to be working in stores or working in restaurants and can potentially, and we’ve seen this in other states, have led to a greater spread of the virus across the people of all age groups. And so many, many in fact, most young people, in our state are doing an amazing job wearing their masks, staying six feet from others. And yet we are seeing some engage in risky behavior.” – Gov. Polis.
Apparently it is the perceived lack of inhibitions caused by drunkenness that caused Colorado to take this action. Frankly, it is understandable. Some cities – Boulder, for instance – had already instituted a 10 p.m. restaurant and bar closure (not last call for alcohol) in connection with the relaxed patio and outside dining modification process. Again, it is worth reiterating that this is not a curfew. So, it may not be as harmful to business as it sounds. In any event, it is another 2×4 to the forehead of the restaurant and bar industry.
Notably, Gov. Polis added that once the Colorado state Legislature convenes for the 2021 session, he hopes that both sides of the aisle will work together to draft legislation that permits local governments to determine their own last call laws, which would open the door for later than 2 a.m. last call for alcohol in Colorado.
UPDATE 7/22 9:58 am – The Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division issued a Clarification / Statement on the Last Call Order stating:
However, it is important to note that the prohibition on sales after 10:00 p.m. applies to retail sales to consumers for consumption on or off the licensed premises (i.e. retail licensees cannot sell drinks for consumption—even through take-out or delivery— past 10:00 p.m.). This prohibition also includes alcohol beverage sales to consumers at permitted special events.
In my opinion, the prohibition of alcohol sales for consumption OFF the premises makes little to no sense at all — especially in light of the fact that Governor Polis just yesterday encouraged gatherings in private homes instead of bars and restaurants. That 2×4 just became a 4×4.