Gov. Polis signs to-go alcohol bill into law at Northside Kitchen in Avon
The stop was just one on many on Tuesday’s tour of bill signings
AVON — Gov. Jared Polis stopped by Northside Kitchen in Avon on Tuesday afternoon to sign a new bill into law that extends alcohol beverage takeout and delivery for the next four years in Colorado.
“It’s been tough for small businesses and restaurants,” Polis said. “But we’re always looking to figure out what are those things that we did during the pandemic that worked and can create a new normal that’s better for small businesses, for consumers.”
And one of these things, Polis said, was the ability for restaurants to deliver and have to-go alcohol. The practice of not allowing this he called “senseless and outdated.”
For restaurant owners, this practice enabled a new revenue source as they struggled with the restrictions of the pandemic. According to the Colorado Restaurant Association’s January 2021 survey of restaurant owners, 93% of restaurants said selling alcohol to go was making them revenue during the pandemic. A majority of respondents, 62%, called it essential to their survival.
The bill, which received bipartisan support, was sponsored by local Rep. Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat, as well as Rep. Colin Larson and Sens. Jeff Bridges and Kevin Priola.
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While the bill only extends this allowance for four years, Polis — as well as many local officials — are optimistic that the bill will be successful and made permanent in the future.
“Being able to experiment with takeout alcohol during the pandemic showed everybody that we can do it responsibly,” said Avon Mayor Sarah Smith Hymes. “We really hope it goes on forever and ever and ever.”
Mitigating wildfire risk
The stop at Northside was just one on a tour of bill signings that Polis did on Tuesday. He traveled from Grand Junction to Lakewood, signing bills on topics ranging from student financial literacy and prescription drug monitoring to wildfire prevention and response, an especially prominent topic with the Sylvan Fire near Eagle burning just down the road from Avon.
According to Polis, the state is working hard “building capacity rapidly to change the nature of dealing with fire.”
Polis signed two bills — both at Hanging Lake outside Glenwood Springs, which was narrowly spared by the Grizzly Creek Fire last summer — which are meant to overall “really update our response system (to wildfires) across the state,” he said.
The first bill, SB21-237, created a Colorado forest health council in the department of natural resources and repealing the forest health advisory council within the state Forest Service. This council creates better coordination between local, state and federal governments when it comes to wildfire response, something that the second bill signed is also meant to achieve.
The second bill, SB21-166, updates three mutual aid statutes that affect the responsibilities of requesting and assisting fire control. This now law implements recommendations from the Colorado Fire Commission when it comes to fire prevention, public emergency medical services and the regional and statewide mutual aid system.
The governor also noted that the state is working to appropriate one-time stimulus funds to “help with fire risk, mitigation and preparation.”
In June, another bill, SB21-258, was signed into law, which created a number of funds to help with the same issue of wildfire risk mitigation. The bill transferred close to $30 million into various funds that deal with wildfire preparation and response.
These bills and efforts are part of the governor’s 2021 wildfire season mitigation plan, which was announced in April of this year. The plan creates excess funds, heightens aviation support, including a new Firehawk helicopter purchased by the state; changes the allocation of resources; and readjusts mutual aid across local, state and federal partners.
“The money is just starting to flow,” Polis said, “It might have some impact this season, but more of it takes time.”
The work on this, however, is far from over. As our climate gets hotter and drier, Polis said, the local, state and federal entities will all need to do even more to reduce the risk of fires.