DENVER (CBS4) – Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says it is time for us to move from “rescue to recovery” – and said expanding local business operations is an important step. He urges Denver entrepreneurs to apply for the 5-star program that will allow them to increase their capacity.

(Credit: CBS4)

The 5-Star Variance Program that was available in other countries will finally open for applications in Denver next week.

“I don’t want a lot of people to believe that Vietnamese food is fast food,” said Quyen Trinh.

Trinh and her husband Long Nguyen have long dreamed of bringing something different to the Denver food scene. They eventually opened Anise on the corner of Lincoln and 9th in 2019.

“Our photo tastes better here, it’s very frothy,” she said

It’s a bit old country cuisine mixed with modern offerings.

“High-end cocktail, nice wine,” said Nguyen.

Opening a restaurant is a dream shared by many, but few have thought of a crippling pandemic.

“We did not make any money in 2020 with limited openings and capacity requirements,” explained Nguyen.

(Credit: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment)

So the couple has been waiting for a change.

According to official sources, the program is currently crucial for companies in difficulty. The unemployment rate rose from 7.2% in November to 9.3% in December.

The city and county of Denver will begin accepting applications for their 5-star certification program starting February 2 at 10 a.m. at https://www.denver.org/5-star/. This would enable the companies to work at a lower level than the county.

For example, a restaurant like Anise could switch from orange level to yellow level, which would mean they could operate indoors at 50% capacity from 25%.

“We’re already implementing a lot of things here anyway,” said Nguyen of the requirements checklists.

The Denver 5 star website mentions things like 6 feet apart. It also listed detergents that can kill COVID-19, as well as a checklist for heating ventilation and an air conditioning checklist for cleaner air.

It’s a lot, but it’s something Nguyen has to look forward to: “We have to take in as many customers as possible, as quickly as we can.”

The number of applicants is limited to 500 in the first round. The second round will open in two more weeks.

Denver must maintain stable or declining Level Orange readings as defined by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for seven days before certified companies can operate below Level Yellow limits.

(Credit: CBS4)

“The good news is that we are doing the best with these metrics so that things are going in the right direction,” said Hancock.

The mayor said the other major way to get the city back on its feet is to expand vaccination distribution.

“We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel … with the president’s announcement, vaccines will increase by 16% and … it really means that we are the beginning of the end, but we still have a lot to do in the next few months” explained Hancock.

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