May 27, 2020

The C&C Coffee and Kitchen, a Castle Rock, Colorado diner, went viral over Mother’s Day weekend when it reopened for dine-in service in spite of a Colorado public health order with a video of the busy restaurant—and few mask-wearers—that was spread all over social media. Gov. Jared Polis responded by suspending the restaurant’s license indefinitely with a 30-day minimum and called the restaurant an “immediate health hazard.” Now, owners of the restaurant are suing Gov. Polis, the state, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), arguing that their constitutional rights have been violated, as reported by The Denver Channel.

Some background on what’s been up in Colorado: Restaurants and bars in the state had been to-go and delivery only since March 19. The Mother’s Day video appeared on May 10. There was a public health order through May 26, which included social distancing of six feet between people, wearing masks, and no gatherings of more than 10 people. As of Wednesday, May 27, restaurants will be allowed to offer dine-in service, but with some safety measures still in place—mainly that restaurants may only operate at 50% of capacity or fewer than 50 people depending on the specific restaurant, six feet between tables, and all employees wearing masks.

The Castle Rock eatery, however, opened for Mother’s Day, and based on what caught attention on social media, there was a long line of customers, tons of people dining at tables, and few people actually wearing masks. Now the owners of the diner, Jesse and April Arellano, are suing. Their attorney, Randy Corporon, filed the suit on Friday, May 22, alleging that the governor’s move to suspend the cafe’s license indefinitely is “unlawful, unprecedented and highly suspect.”

The suit claims that the owners have “suffered devastating and possibly insurmountable financial hardship” and claims that they are now in debt. The suit also claims that the governor’s executive and public health orders don’t give him the authority to “designate and discriminate” among people for “selective imposition of emergency orders.” The suit alleges the governor moved with “particular hostility and desire for revenge.”

In reference to that Sunday, owner April Arellano told Colorado Community Media: "I expected it to be busy. I never expected this. I'm so happy so many people came out to support the Constitution and stand up for what is right. We did our time. We did our two weeks. We did more than two weeks […] and we were failing. We had to do something."

"Customers will return en masse when they feel safe. When people see videos of people packed into a restaurant with no social distancing and no masks, people feel less safe and the widespread economic pain will only be prolonged,” Polis said at a press conference after the video first went viral. He added: "I love my mom far too much to put her at risk by visiting a busy restaurant operating illegally just to take a selfie with omelets and a mimosa.”

Restaurants across the nation have defied orders, or threatened to do so, in order to stay open for dine-in service during the pandemic. One Carmel-by-the-Sea restaurant owner stayed open for dine-in service despite citations for violating the state’s shelter-in-place order, for example, while an elected official in North Carolina also kept his restaurant’s dining room open. One restaurant group in Washington, D.C. went viral for claiming it was going to defy coronavirus restrictions only to get a very public Twitter response from Mayor Muriel Bowser, and told The Washington Post it would comply.

Posted with permission from Daily Kos.

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