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Our Issues

It was another tough fight this year, but one of our top priorities is to continue to advocate for restaurants at every level. We encourage you to stay involved with our advocacy work by responding to our calls to action and surveys, reaching out to your elected officials and the media, and donating to our Political Action Committees
 
The 2021 Colorado State Legislative Session was arguably one of the most important for our industry in living memory following the COVID-19 pandemic. As the voice of Colorado's restaurant industry at the state, local, and federal level, our team fought every day to make sure that your restaurants' interests were protected and our industry is set up for a strong recovery.


Here is a summary of the bills that we lobbied on behalf the restaurant industry:

Liquor Law

House Bill 1027 Continue Alcohol Beverage Takeout and Delivery by Representatives Roberts (D- Steamboat Springs) and Larson (R- Ken Caryl) and Senators Bridges (D-Littleton) and Priola (R-Henderson) would allow on-premises liquor licensees to continue to sell alcohol for takeout and delivery until July 1, 2025.

The bill includes the following:

  • Extends alcohol for takeout and delivery from a restaurant until July 1, 2024
  • Allows a restaurant to sell alcohol for takeout and delivery between the hours of 7 a.m. and midnight
  • After the pandemic State of Emergency is lifted, limits how much alcohol restaurants can sell for takeout and delivery, per transaction, to:
    • One liter of spirits
    • Two 750-ml bottles of wine
    • Two six-packs of beer
  • Allows cities to create outdoor communal dining areas where two or more restaurants are allowed to attach their liquor licenses and then sell and serve alcohol in that outdoor dining area.

This bill has passed the legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Senate Bill 82 Alcohol Beverage Festival for Tastings and Sales by Senators Priola (R- Henderson) and Pettersen (D- Lakewood) and Representatives Mullica (D- Northglenn) and Williams (R- El Paso County) will allow liquor licensees including restaurants to hold up to nine festivals annually. We supported this bill because it opens another important revenue stream for restaurants as we look ahead to pandemic recovery. Prior to this bill, this allowance was reserved only for wine manufactures and limited wineries.

This bill has been signed by the Governor.

Labor Law

Senate Bill 176 Protecting Opportunities and Workers’ Rights Act by Senators Winter (D-Westminster) and Petterson (D-Lakewood) and Representatives Lontine (D-Lakewood) and Gray (D-Broomfield) would have made substantial changes to labor and employment law, leaving restaurants vulnerable to expensive and potentially baseless litigation. The proposed changes included broadening the definition of “hostile work environment;” changing the definition of “employee” to include independent contractors; requiring employers to develop and utilize harassment training (failure to do either would result in penalties and fines); and more. The CRA joined a large coalition of businesses who fought against this legislation.

This bill was postponed indefinitely in the House Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 197 Workers’ Compensation Physician by Senator Rodriguez (D- Denver) and Representatives Woodrow (D- Denver) and Boesenecker (D- Fort Collins) would have allowed injured workers control over the selection of their physician in their workers’ compensation cases, allowing them to choose from any level I or level II accredited physician through the divisions of workers’ compensation. We were opposed to the bill as the current system already works to place an injured worker under the care of a qualified physician in a timely fashion so that they can begin to receive care. If employees were allowed to “shop” for their physician, the process would slow down significantly, resulting in claims possibly taking months to resolve.

This bill was postponed indefinitely.

Plastics

House Bill 1162 Management of Plastic Products by Representatives Valdez (D- Denver) and Cutter (D- Jefferson County) and Senators Gonzales (D- Denver) and Garcia (D- Pueblo) will limit and/or regulate single use plastics. This bill was introduced with three primary components, including a ban on polystyrene products, a ban on plastic bags, and the removal of the state preemption that prohibits local governments from regulating single-use plastics. While we understand the intent of the bill and are willing to come to the table to discuss meaningful ways to manage waste in our communities, we were opposed to the bill primarily because of the removal of the state preemption language. Local governments traditionally do not have the same extensive review processes as state legislation, meaning local government plastics regulations could lead to unintended consequences. Furthermore, allowing local governments to independently regulate plastics will result in a patchwork of laws across the state, leading to confusion for operators. We prefer statewide regulations to avoid that confusion and facilitate compliance.

We worked with the sponsors in the House to adopt two amendments: one to remove local control and one to exempt restaurants from the plastic-bag ban. We wanted to give restaurants the option to use single-use plastic bags after hearing concerns from members regarding the potential dangers of contaminants on reusable bags that could be transferred to ready-to-eat foods. After the adoption of these two amendments, we moved to a neutral position.

Once the bill was in the Senate, that chamber adopted an amendment that put local control back into the bill, so we shifted to an opposed position. Despite our efforts, the bill passed with local control included. What this means for restaurants: Starting January 1, 2024 the polystyrene ban will go into effect. If you have purchased polystyrene containers before January 1, 2024 and you have them in your existing stock, you can distribute the remaining inventory but you cannot purchase anything new. And, starting July 1, 2024, local governments can begin to consider plastic ordinances that are more restrictive than the state regulations.

This bill has passed the legislature and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

Senate Bill 180 Recycling and Composting Enterprise Grant Program by Senators Priola (R- Henderson) and Zenzinger (D- Arvada) and Representatives Bird (D- Westminster) and Titone (D- Arvada) as introduced, would have attempted to direct funds to support Colorado recycling and composting infrastructure by imposing fees on foodservice packaging manufacturers. We were opposed to the introduced version of the bill because of our concerns about the cost shifting that would occur under the bill, resulting in higher takeout container prices for restaurants. And, the increased fees to fund the infrastructure were only applied to foodservice packaging, which unfairly singled out the restaurant industry. An amendment was adopted to this bill to change it to a study to explore policies relative to post-consumer recycled content requirements for packaging. The advisory committee established under the bill would have been directed to submit a report on or before July 1, 2022 regarding the feasibility of implementing post-consumer recycled content requirements for packaging and recommendations for future policy solutions. We adopted a neutral position after the amendment.

This bill did not receive a final vote before the end of the legislative session, thus dying on the calendar.

Taxes

House Bill 1265 Qualified Retailer Retain Sales Tax for Assistance by Representatives Mullica (D- Northglenn) and Van Winkle (R- Highlands Ranch) and Senators Pettersen (D- Lakewood) and Woodward (R- Loveland) will continue the industry-specific sales tax relief that we saw in November and December of 2020 and January and February of 2021. If this bill is signed into law, foodservice industry members such as restaurants, bars, food trucks, and caterers can withhold up to $2,000 in sales and use tax collections they would have otherwise had to remit to the state for the months of June, July, and August of 2021. We supported this legislation as it provides much-need financial assistance to restaurants.

This bill passed the legislature and awaits the Governor’s signature.

Senate Bill 130 Local Authority for Business Personal Property Tax Exemption by Senators Holbert (R- Parker) and Pettersen (D- Lakewood) and Representatives Van Winkle (R- Highlands Ranch) and Bird (D- Westminster) allows local jurisdictions to exempt up to 100% of business personal property from the levy and collection of property taxation for the 2021 property tax year. We supported the bill as it will give local governments the flexibility to exempt business personal property to provide much needed assistance to businesses in their jurisdictions.

This bill has been signed by the Governor into law.

Colorado Restaurant Foundation

We worked to secure funding for a key line item in the state budget, the Hospitality Secondary Education Grant Program, the grant funding that the Colorado Restaurant Foundation uses to fund ProStart. The ProStart program is even more critical in a time like this, when industry workers are considering what comes next. Through ProStart, we can prepare the next generation of industry workers by partnering with high schools across the state and offering students restaurant/hospitality management, culinary arts, and business economic skills for high school and college credit. We, along with our colleagues at the Colorado Restaurant Foundation, worked diligently to convey the importance of this program to the JBC members and pressure them to continue its funding, even in light of these challenging economic times. Although the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment had initially decided not to include the grant in their funding request, we worked with JBC staff to recommend full funding for the grant this year. JBC members ultimately voted unanimously to fully fund the grant program for another year.

The funding was finalized when Governor Polis signed the state budget earlier this year.

COVID-19 Assistance

House Bill 1302 Continue COVID-19 Small Business Grant Program by Representatives Herod (D- Denver) and Daugherty (D- Arvada) and Senator Winter (D- Westminster) appropriates $15 million from the state general fund to continue the COVID-19 grant program established under SB20-222. The bill also simplifies the documentation and verification required of a business to demonstrate need, particularly for smaller awards and smaller businesses. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees, measured as full-time equivalent, who have been affected by economic hardship caused by COVID-19 are eligible. Businesses must demonstrate losses related to COVID-19 by providing either a self-certification or financial documentation that the small business’s financial losses are equal to or greater than the amount requested, up to the maximum grant amount. A small business that self-certifies its loss and does not provide financial documentation may not receive a grant amount greater than $5,000. We supported this bill as it will provide direct grants to small restaurants who experienced hardship due to COVID-19 and streamlines the application process.

This bill passed the legislature and awaits the Governor’s signature.

Senate Bill 291 Economic Recovery and Relief Cash Fund by Senators Fenberg (D- Boulder) and Holbert (R- Parker) and Representatives Roberts (D- Steamboat Springs) and Van Winkle (R- Highland Ranch) appropriates $40 million of the funds the state received from the federal “American Rescue Plan Act” to establish an economic recovery and relief cash fund. $10 million of the funds appropriated must be used to incentivize businesses to locate in rural Colorado. The remaining $30 million in funds must be used for:

  • Assistance to small businesses
  • Assistance to individuals and households
  • Assistance to nonprofit organizations
  • Public expenditures for COVID-19 prevention and response
  • Administrative costs associated with COVID-19 public health programs
  • Aid to impacted industries
  • Assistance to unemployed workers
  • Contributions to the unemployment compensation fund

We supported the bill as it directs more funds to businesses experiencing hardship due to COVID-19 and supports industries most impacted by the pandemic, including the hospitality industry.

This bill passed the legislature and awaits the Governor’s signature.

General Business

Senate Bill 35 Restrictions on Third-Party Food Delivery Services by Senator Rodriguez (D-Denver) and Representative Bird (D-Westminster) prohibits a third-party delivery company (think DoorDash, Uber Eats, GrubHub, Postmates, etc.) from conducting takeout/delivery services for that restaurant without that restaurant’s expressed written consent – or participating in “non-partner agreement” activities. The CRA supported this legislation as it allows restaurants to maintain the service model they feel is appropriate for their business. This bill was signed into law by the Governor.

Senate Bill 91 Credit Transaction Charge Limitations by Senators Liston (R-Colorado Springs) and Rodriguez (D-Denver) and Representatives Bird (D-Westminster) and Larson (R-Ken Caryl) would remove the prohibition on retail establishments from charging customers credit card processing fees, allowing restaurants and other retailers the option to shift those credit card processing fees  to the consumer. This bill would not mandate any new business activities, so restaurants that do not wish to take advantage of this allowance will not be impacted. If a restaurant chooses to take advantage of the new allowance, the charge back to the customer can abe no more than 2% and the restaurant must post a sign, with specific language dictated by the state, informing the customer of this allowance. Additionally, this allowance is limited to credit cards. Retailers cannot charge it for payments of cash, check, debit card, or gift card. This bill passed the legislature and awaits the Governor’s signature.

 


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