Coronavirus & Restaurants — Colorado Shuts Down Defiant Restaurant

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Downtown Denver skyline (Isaiah J. Downing/USA Today Sports)

On Mother’s Day, social media took note of a suburban Denver restaurant, in the town of Castle Rock, that was jam-packed with customers in flagrant defiance of state restrictions, which currently limit restaurants to takeout and delivery. Pictures showed customers at C & C Coffee & Kitchen not wearing masks and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder. The owner of the restaurant cited the Constitution as her basis for staying open. The health department predictably yanked the restaurant’s license.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment told ABC News it “has issued an Order of Summary Suspension to the restaurant for its retail food license, which complements the Tri-County order closing the restaurant. Summary suspension actions are immediate and require the restaurant to shut down as soon as they receive the suspension order. Both agencies may choose to pursue additional legal action if the restaurant owner violates their respective orders. If a business remained open after its license was suspended, the next step would be to get a court order to close the business.” Customers replied by taping cash to the window of the shuttered restaurant.

 

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While the owner’s frustration is understandable, it was pretty obvious that this would happen. Violate the law, and you’ll get busted.

Still, different people have different levels of risk tolerance, and this is the fissure that is cracking open. The Democratic governor of Colorado, Jared Polis, said the restaurant posed a public-health hazard to everyone: “I love my mom far too much to put her at risk by visiting a busy restaurant operating illegally, just to take a selfie with omelets and a mimosa,” he said Monday. “Colorado, America, we are better than that.”

Okay, so . . . don’t send your mom to a busy restaurant. If your mom stays home, her life won’t be much altered by the fact that others are going to restaurants. As is often the case with people making these arguments, the heretofore natural and understandable desire of people not to live under house arrest is framed as a horrendous and aberrant act of selfishness, a desire to “take a selfie with omelets and a mimosa.” The even more understandable and natural desire of small-business owners to stay in business is ignored.

How long can those who are afraid to be in the company of other people stop those who are unafraid from going out? There probably won’t be a vaccine this year. There may not be a vaccine next year. There may never be a vaccine. Is everyone supposed to cower at home indefinitely? Or will we have to recognize that some people are okay with crowded restaurants and others aren’t? If you don’t want the economy to open up, stay home in a hazmat suit and surgical mask until a vaccine is found.



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