Colorado restaurant shut down for opening in-person dining in defiance of state rules

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. -- A restaurant that opened for full service on Mother's Day in defiance of state rules banning in-person dining was ordered closed and had its license suspended indefinitely by health officials Monday.

A video posted by Colorado Community Media showed people sitting at tables and waiting close together in line at the counter C&C Breakfast and Korean Kitchen while others lined up outside for a chance to get inside the eatery in Castle Rock about 30 miles south of Denver. Except for one person wearing a mask, the scene and the din of people talking appeared like just another busy day at any restaurant before the government limited eateries to all but takeout service to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Gov. Jared Polis said Monday that C&C Breakfast and Korean Kitchen "is causing an immediate health hazard," and its business license will remain suspended until the restaurant is no longer a threat.

"We're walking a tightrope between protecting all of our health and of course trying to grow our economy," he said. "It's hard enough to walk without folks shaking the rope because of their own ideological or anti-scientific views, which they choose over the lives of our brothers and sisters."

The Tri-County Health Department said if the owners refuse to comply, further legal action would be taken against the restaurant that could include the revocation of its license.

"It is disheartening that this restaurant has chosen to move ahead of the public orders and not even consider implementing best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is not fair to the rest of the community and other business owners that are following Safer at Home and doing their part," the department's executive director, John M. Douglas, Jr., said in a statement.

In a tweet to President Donald Trump, the restaurant's owners said they were standing up for America, small businesses, the Constitution and against Polis' overreach in response to the outbreak.

The owners, Jesse and April Arellano, could not be reached for comment by telephone on Monday. After laying off most of their staff during the outbreak, Jesse Arellano told KCNC-TV on Sunday that they wanted to stand up for small businesses and get the attention of lawmakers. He acknowledged they could face sanctions for their actions but said they wanted to know much support they had.

"We figured if we're going to crash, we're going to go down and see how many people stand with us," Jesse Arellano told the station.

While restaurants in Colorado are not allowed to offer sit-down service under Polis' latest order, the state has allowed restaurants in western Colorado's Mesa County to open tables to customers - though only at 30% capacity - because of its low number of cases.

Mesa County has not had any coronavirus deaths. Douglas County, a wealthy county that is a mix of suburban and rural areas, has had 28 deaths due to the virus, about 3% of the statewide count.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Video via KMGH-TV
Copyright © 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.