If I know my culture-war news cycles, and I think I do, here’s how this one’s going to go:
1. Rebellious populist defiance of unpopular state action
2. Crackdown by Democratic state official
3. GoFundMe page started
4. Sympathetic amplification by top Republican news outlets, especially Fox News
5. Elevation to full cause celebre via Trump’s Twitter account
State health officials on Monday suspended the license of a Castle Rock restaurant that opened to large Mother’s Day crowds, a warning to other Colorado eateries that might also consider defying the statewide public health order that limits restaurants to take-out and delivery services…
“I hope, I pray that nobody falls sick from businesses that chose to violate the law,” [Gov. Jared] Polis said when announcing the suspension. “But if the state didn’t act and more businesses followed suit, it’s a near guarantee that people would lose their lives and it would further delay the opening of legitimate businesses.”…
“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,” John Douglas, Tri-County’s executive director, said in a statement announcing the closure order.
“It is not fair to the rest of the community and other business owners that are following Safer at Home and doing their part,” Douglas said of C&C Coffee and Kitchen’s decision to reopen. Some local business owners agree:
Thank you @makenziepokeefe @CBSDenver for interview regarding C&C Breakfast + Korean Kitchen in Castle Rock opening to in room dining in violation of @GovofCO Public Health Mandates. pic.twitter.com/1aGxtsY0My
— Chris Fuselier (@ChrisJFuselier) May 11, 2020
That guy’s now getting hate mail from the anti-lockdown crowd, just as the owners of C&C are getting hate mail from the pro-lockdown crowd. Culture war forever. The irony of Polis having to crack down here is that he’s been the among most aggressive Democratic governors in the country in moving to reopen, promising new guidelines for state restaurants two weeks from now. But his forthcoming order won’t apply to C&C, he says. Because they broke the rules, they’ll be shut down for at least 30 days (and temporarily lose their license to operate at their other location in Colorado) even if other eateries start opening up later this month: “It’s unfortunate that the owners and the employees of C&C Coffee and Kitchen will have to suffer the economic loss of a prolonged closure when other restaurants across the state are likely opening and welcoming customers.”
Bear in mind that Colorado restaurants have been open for takeout and delivery throughout the crisis, with Polis authorizing them to include alcohol in deliveries to help drum up business. This isn’t a case of C&C or anyone else having been completely prevented from operating. Also bear in mind that a restaurant that insisted on breaking the rules to host dine-in service could have shown good faith about trying to stop the spread by taking basic precautions like requiring masks of all customers and spacing out tables. C&C is deliberately flouting those protocols, seemingly to force a political confrontation. The owners tried to get Trump’s attention a few days before Mother’s Day:
The owner told the Denver Post that although they’re in a “tight spot” financially, they didn’t reopen for money:
A sign on the restaurant’s door Monday read, “ATTENTION! Our freedom doesn’t end where your fear begins. If you are scared, stay at home. If you are afraid to be within six feet of another business, DO NOT ENTER THIS BUSINESS! God Bless America, Land of the ‘Free’ and home of the brave.”
It’s a straightforward rejection of basic health measures in the age of COVID, no different really than refusing to clean the kitchen as a protest against the tyrannical state health department.
Step three has already been taken, by the way. Here’s the GoFundMe page. I assume the only reason the owners haven’t appeared on Fox primetime yet (or have they?) is because they’re trying to decide whose invitation to accept, Tucker’s, Sean’s, or Laura’s.
Polis and his team now have to deal with the tricky issue of how to sanction the business. Jail is likely out of the question since draconian penalties will draw a backlash. Presumably a 30-day freeze on their business license will be enough, although…
I’m here at C & C restaurant in Castle Rock, Colorado where my colleague @nick__puckett took a video yesterday of the restaurant lined with people for Mother’s Day. Today, more folks dine-in even after they’ve been ordered by Tri-County Heath to shut down completely. pic.twitter.com/ouBu7LQHMs
— Elliott Wenzler (@ElliottWenzler) May 11, 2020
Looks like there’s at least one customer there with a face covering. It was nice of Captain America to drop by too and show his support.
According to the clip below, anti-lockdown activists were hoping that C&C’s defiance would be matched by other businesses all over the region, a show of solidarity that would force Polis and his team to reopen on a large scale sooner than they’d like. It didn’t happen, either because other owners feared the penalties or because they concluded that reopening without precautions was stupid and dangerous. In lieu of an exit question, read this piece at Slate gauging how the restaurant industry is doing in several red states that have already authorized partial reopenings. Bookings are still light years off of where they were at this time last year, although it’s hard to say how much of that is a demand problem and how much is a supply problem. Most states currently have caps on how many customers restaurants are allowed to seat so it’d be impossible for eateries to completely match their volume of customers from last year. Still, bookings are 80-90 percent off the pace.