Owners of Colorado restaurant that was packed on Mother's Day are suing Gov. Polis after order to close
The owners of restaurants in Colorado Springs and Castle Rock are suing the governor of Colorado and health agencies over an order to close tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawyer representing the owners of C&C Breakfast & Korean Kitchen in Castle Rock told 11 News the complaint was filed with the state.
The restaurant made national news earlier this month after video surfaced of their dining room filled with people on Mother's Day, despite a statewide order that all dining rooms of restaurants were to remain closed at the time.
"The matter before this honorable court is more than just a case of executive authority overreach and constitutional violations," the introduction of the document reads. "It implicates core principles of our nation's founding and the rule of law."
The document goes on to state the owners "remain in a continual state of limbo and uncertainty," because of the number of public health orders that continue to "be extended and changed almost weekly."
The complaint adds the owners attempted to operate curbside service until Mother's Day.
"Due to severe financial hardship resulting from the series of defendants' orders, and in order to exercise their First Amendment rights, plaintiffs opened the C&C in Castle Rock for on-premises dining on May 10, 2020. Hundreds of customers, friends and members of the community patronized plaintiffs' restaurant."
The Tri-County Health Department ordered the closure of the restaurant the following day, May 11, and is also named as a defendant in the complaint. Additional defendants include the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and that agency's Executive Director, Jill Hunsaker Ryan.
11 News reached out to the governor's office Monday night; a representative for the office said they do not comment on pending litigation.
It was the type of crowd Colorado's governor has been pushing everyone to avoid during a global pandemic. A restaurant in Castle Rock was filled with people on Mother's Day, some waiting in line, and others sitting at tables.
The restaurant, C&C Breakfast & Korean Kitchen, was ordered to close by the Tri-County Health Department on Monday. According to the county health department, the restaurant was warned on Friday to not open. They were only allowed to do take-out and delivery. Despite the warning, video captured by Nick Puckett on Sunday shows dozens of people inside the restaurant appearing to ignore social distancing guidelines.
“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. We sincerely hope that C&C will choose to cooperate with the rules under which they are allowed to operate so we can lift this closure order,” said Tri- County Health Department Executive Director John M. Douglas Jr., MD in a release on Monday.
Under state statute, as the health department serving Douglas County, Tri-County Health Department is the entity responsible for enforcing the state’s public health orders as well as its own.
The health department served the restaurant papers in person Monday, ordering the restaurant to close. A visibly angry Gov. Polis singled out the restaurant in a news conference Monday.
"When people decide to engage in large gatherings, I want you to pause and think about the people who have died and your responsibility as a Coloradan to keep people safe."
The governor announced Monday he plans on suspending the license for the restaurant for at least 30 days, if not longer.
11 News reporter Spencer Wilson -- who was told by the restaurant owners Monday that they hadn't read the notice but that "nothing has changed!" -- confirmed Tuesday that the restaurant's license had been revoked by the state. The restaurant's Colorado Springs location, which had just been doing takeout, was also closed.
Owners Jesse and April Arellano had previously told Wilson the crowd they'd seen starting on Mother's Day was a win. When pressed if their feelings would change if they learned a customer had been sick and spread the virus around, they told Wilson they still believed they did the right thing.
"You would have to talk to that person that was sick and see what they say. And you know what? I guarantee anyone who came in here yesterday, if they got sick, they did not regret it one bit. Just like we do not regret one bit what we are doing right here."
Karen's Kafe and Stephanie's Bar and Grill and Western Omelette 3, both of Calhan, opened their dining rooms to the public last week. Both owners told 11 News reporter Robbie Reynold they believed they had a right to reopen.
"We believe in our constitutional rights," said Karen Starr of Karen's Kafe and Stephanie's Bar and Grill. "... What are we saying if we’re not gonna stand up for our Constitution? It’s not that we’re going against the governor. We’re going against our constitutional right to assemble."
"We feel we have the right as little restaurants, tiny owners," said Bill Borders of Western Omelette 3.
A cease and desist order was in the works on Friday from El Paso County Public Health. As of Monday afternoon, El Paso County Public Health did not have any updates on what action would be taken if the restaurants continue to defy the order. Karen's Kafe and Stephanie's Bar and Grill remained open to the public Monday, and Western Omelette 3 posted to its Facebook page that while it was closed Monday and Tuesday for as part of its normal business hours, it would be back open Wednesday.
You can watch the video of C&C Breakfast & Korean Kitchen below from Nick Puckett and Colorado Community Media: