DENVER -- The Appliance Factory store at 1045 Zuni St. remains open despite an order that non-essential businesses close to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
It is one of four stores cited by the City and County of Denver for non-compliance with a public health order, and the only one cited more than once.
Sales Director Matt Coudayre told Denver7 that Appliance Factory disagrees with its categorization as a non-essential business.
"Right now, people need appliances more than ever," he said.
Coudayre said with residents being told to stay home, they're buying far more groceries than usual.
"To shelter in place, you need stoves to cook on. You need dishwashers to sanitize your dishes. You need to sanitize your clothing and bedding. You need refrigeration, of course, for all the supplies that folks are buying," he said.
When asked if Appliance Factory can sell online, Coudayre said they already do, but that most customers want to see what the appliance is like and learn more about it from staff.
He also said they only allow three customers in the store at a time, and staff wears gloves and, when available, masks.
Gov. Polis's executive order
On March 25, Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order requiring residents to stay home and only leave for essentials, such as groceries and medical care.
Businesses deemed "critical" are exempt from the order, but are still required to take social distancing measures.
Polis said the order will save countless lives.
According to Denver, Appliance Factory is not a critical business.
Coudayre said it is, and that the store is appealing the city's decision.
"We have a court summons in July and hopefully all of this will be settled before that," he said.
Citations in Denver
According to the city, 7 citations were issued to the following businesses last week, for failing to follow a public health order:
- 3/31-Appliance Factory Outlet (1045 Zuni St)
- 3/31 Wing Stop (5125 Chambers Rd)
- 3/30 Hobby Lobby (920 S. Monaco)
- 3/29 Appliance Factory (1045 Zuni St.)
- 3/29 Car Wash USA Express (603 Santa Fe Dr.)
- 3/28 Appliance Factory (1045 Zuni)
- 3/26 Game Stop (757 E 20th Ave)
The GameStop, Hobby Lobby and Car Wash USA Express have since closed.
Rebecca Fretty, vice president of marketing for the International Car Wash Group, parent company of Car Wash Express, said they weren't trying to flout the law, but are hoping to get it modified like it was in Dallas, where many essential workers are using car washes.
"The customers we're serving are the essential first responders, and organizations that are allowed to work," she said. "We've got doctors and nurses who are on their way home, or on their way to the hospital, and want to clean their car. We have law enforcement. We have delivery services."
Fretty said many people in the delivery business are working especially hard, now that residents have been told to stay home.
She said customers will often walk up to the delivery vehicle.
"I know they're trying not to touch, but we are finding a lot of delivery people wanting to wash their car often and sanitize their door handles and window, so that's who we're serving more right now, than ever before. When someone says a car wash is essential, it's who we are serving that is essential."
Fretty also told Denver7 that the Car Wash Express business model is COVID-19 compliant.
"Forty percent of our customers are monthly unlimited car wash members," she said. "They have a tag in their windshield that the gate reads. The gate opens as they drive up and they never have to interact with a person. They come in and get washed and drive out."
Fretty said the other 60 percent that purchase a single wash are self-serving at the point of sale.
"It's similar to going to a gas station and pumping your own gas," she said. "You swipe your credit card, the arm comes up and an employee waves them in."
Fretty said they respect the decisions made by state and local officials, but "hope we are able to have conversations to share examples of where car washes have remained opened."
Denver7 reached out to the city's Joint Information Center to ask about Appliance Factory's claim that it is essential, whether an exception will be made, or whether public health officials will step up enforcement.
A spokeswoman told Denver7, that a citation, or court summons, is also known as a General Violation Summons or a “GV.” This is a written summons for non-compliance that orders the recipient to appear in court. The judge will decide whether the recipient should be fined, and if so, how much. The judge could also order jail time.
She noted that Appliance Factory has been cited three (3) times.
"I do not have any information at this time on next steps," said Nancy Kuhn. "Regarding the citations they have received, my understanding is that they will have to go before a judge. Violators face a fine up to $999 and one year in jail. The judge will decide whether or not to levy a fine/jail time."