Castle Rock restaurant that defied Colorado public health order closes

CASTLE ROCK — The restaurant ordered to shut down after it defied a statewide public health order by offering dine-in service on Mother’s Day was shuttered Tuesday, despite a steady stream of would-be customers who’d hoped to have a meal there as a show of support.

C&C Coffee and Kitchen drew national attention Sunday when owners Jesse and April Arellano welcomed crowds of customers into their small restaurant. The customers filled the tables, a patio and formed a line outside the door.

Most were not wearing masks, according to video and photos posted on social media, and no one was practicing social distancing.

Restaurant workers in Colorado are required to wear masks when interacting with the public, and restaurants have been limited to take-out and delivery services since mid-March because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Jared Polis on Monday said health officials would suspend the restaurant’s license because it presented an “immediate health hazard,” and the Tri-County Health Department also ordered the restaurant to close.

“I was extremely disappointed to see people and businesses actively breaking the law and defying public health orders this weekend,” Polis said during a news conference Monday. “We all have laws we agree with and we disagree with, but we all have a responsibility as Coloradans and Americans to follow the law.”

Jesse Arellano said Monday he hadn’t decided whether to shut down the restaurant, which remained open that afternoon following the announcements by Polis and Tri-County. Customers who showed up Tuesday morning said they saw conflicting messages online about whether the restaurant would open.

Arellano said Monday he hadn’t expected such large crowds on Sunday and said he’s received death threats since a video showing the packed restaurant went viral.

“We just thought we were going to get a few people for Mother’s Day and that would be it,” he said.

Would-be customer Rob Howe said he thought an initial shutdown for the pandemic was warranted, but said that it has gone on too long. Around 9 a.m., he and several other customers taped cash to the restaurant’s front wall as a show of support.

“This is about our freedom at this point, and the governor’s overreach,” he said. “And we’re doing real harm to our citizens that we shouldn’t be doing right now.”

He went on to say that those who are at high risk from the novel coronavirus should stay home to avoid putting themselves in danger of infection, and that the decision to stay in should be made by each individual’s assessment of their personal tolerance for risk, not by a government mandate.

“When I go to Walmart, I wear a mask,” he said, gesturing at the nearby Walmart. “But I can walk over here, I can go to Walmart,  I can go to Home Depot, I can go to Safeway. But I can’t come get a breakfast burrito. That just makes no sense to me.”

A couple dozen people tried to eat at the restaurant Tuesday morning; most left quickly after realizing the doors were locked and the lights were out. By 11 a.m., about $300 in cash was taped to the restaurant’s door.

Paula Waterman, who left money, said she was a regular customer and stopped by to show support for the restaurant and to protest the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

“I’d like to see the governor take this seriously as a message that small business owners we have done our part,” she said. “We have participated, we have done our part, and now we need him to be faithful to us. We need him to care about the small business owners who are losing their jobs and their employees. We have really tried to comply with everything he’s asked us to do, but now it’s gone too far.”

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