CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — The doors may be closed, but that isn’t stopping people from supporting a Castle Rock restaurant closed indefinitely by the state for violating health orders as the owner considers legal action to reopen those doors.
The front entrance to C&C Breakfast & Korean Kitchen are plastered with cash after supporters began taping money to the business Tuesday morning. Supporters were even seen outside the restaurant handing cash directly to C&C owner Jesse Arellano, who showed up and took part in a barbecue he said was community organized.
“These people are trying to help us,” Arellano said, describing his reaction at seeing the cash taped to his door. “We’re going to need it because it’s going to be a long road. We appreciate everyone that is supporting us.”
But the donations didn’t stop there. An online fundraising effort has sprung up on GoFundMe, where 350 donations have raised more than $17,000 as of Tuesday. The page has a goal of $20,000 and was organized by Steve Gilbertson, who called Gov. Polis’ actions to close restaurants amid the COVID-19 pandemic “unconstitutional.”
It was also later revealed that Arellano had received a small business grant from the town of Castle Rock for the amount of $5,000 during the months C&C was closed for the COVID-19 pandemic. The town said the grants were awarded April 21 without any further conditions.
Arellano said he also looked into the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) but did not follow through because he was unsure of when his restaurant would reopen. PPP was created by the Small Business Administration to shore up small businesses affected by the COVID-19 slowdown.
The outpouring of support comes after the Tri-County Health Department, and the state on Monday ordered the Castle Rock eatery to close after it served a crowd of people inside without masks or social distancing guidelines on Mother’s Day.
Video taken inside the coffee shop Sunday by Colorado Community Media shows booths packed, tables filled and a line snaking out the door. Arellano declined to speak on the record with Denver7 on Sunday.
Douglas County, where the cafe is located, is currently under the state's safer at home order and does not have a variance, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE). Under the order, take-out services are allowed, but dine-in services are banned.
Arellano said he is consulting with an attorney to explore possible legal action against the state and local health department. He said that Gov. Jared Polis is making an example out of him for violating the governor’s executive order that forbids restaurants from dine-in operations during the pandemic.
“It got the attention of the governor,” Arellano said. “I think that they are probably going to make an example of us – ‘so, we’re going to pick on small business, make an example out of them.’”
The Tri-County Health Department and the CDPHE said C&C would remain closed until it can prove it is in compliance. Gov. Polis said the Colorado Department of Public Health was using its authority under the Colorado Food Protection Act to suspend the café’s license indefinitely – which Polis said would probably be at least 30 days.
“While the residents and businesses of Colorado made tremendous sacrifices through physical distancing in order to flatten the curve, we are still not out of the woods. This virus will continue to take the lives of our families, neighbors, and friends if we don’t act responsibly,” said CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan in a statement. “Irresponsible behavior like this only serves to defeat all of the progress made during the Stay at Home Order in slowing the spread.”
Blake Street Tavern owner Chris Fuselier said he was shocked when he saw the video from C&C on Sunday.
“I’m so frustrated as another independent restaurant owner in Colorado, and we’re trying to do the right thing,” he said. “I mean, they went full out and broke just about every public health order there was.”
He said he worried that others might try to copy what the restaurant did despite it being ordered to close by the state and county health departments.
“I really fear copycats and that it is going to sprout in other parts of the state,” Fuselier said.
The owner of C&C said he might use the grant money and the GoFundMe funds toward fines he has incurred and toward legal fees.