UPDATE: The Tri-County Health Department issued an order to close to the C&C Breakfast & Korean Kitchen just after 12:30 p.m. Monday, until the health department “determines the establishment is in compliance.”
CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (CBS4) – A Colorado restaurant came under just as much heavy criticism as praise on Mother’s Day due to the coronavirus outbreak. C&C Breakfast and Korean Kitchen on Trail Boss Drive in Castle Rock opened its doors to patrons to dine inside.
Video of the packed dining area with no social distancing from Nick Puckett of Colorado Community Media almost instantly drew national attention. It shows nearly every customer without a mask and in near proximity to each other.
“We’re getting ready to crash, just like another statistic,” Jesse Arellano, the owner told CBS4’s Makenzie O’Keefe on Sunday. “And we may still crash, we don’t know. But we figured if we’re going to crash, we’re going to go down and see how many people see stand with us.”
Jesse and his wife April decided they would open up their doors for in-house dining for Mother’s Day only. In a video posted online and shared with CBS4, April shows a packed dining room inside C&C, which stands for Cookies & Crème. She said there was a two hour wait at the restaurant as they served hundreds of customers.
“You’re slinging food, bringing dishes out and seeing people,” she said. “It was so nice to have that buzz again.”
The couple knew that opening their doors would be violating the public health order that restricts restaurants and bars from allowing in-house dining. Under a current safer-at-home order, restaurants can only offer delivery or drive-up service.
“We knew that there’s consequences,” Jesse said. “We might be fined, maybe even jail, but we’re willing to make a statement if this is going to help wake up some of the congressmen and the governor.”
Jesse said he feels keeping restaurants closed for seven weeks has destroyed small businesses. He and April have owned the restaurant for seven years and sold their house at one point to keep the business afloat.
“It makes me cry, just how many people support us,” he said. “No matter what. Even if a risk getting sick or whatever they still support us.”
The Tri-County Health Department oversees Douglas County. It states on its website: All people in Colorado must follow the letter and the spirit of these orders. Do not try to bend the rules or find loopholes. It’s up to us all to keep people safe and build up our health care system so we can treat people who are sick and save lives.
A manager at C&C told CBS4 a lot of “patriots” supported his business, and he’s doing “what the government isn’t doing — opening.”
The couple said they’ve had to lay off most their staff, and now feel that it should be up to the business owners to decide whether or not a business can open. They added, it’s a customer’s right as well to choose whether or not they will enter the business.
“I think people want to work, they want to live. We live in danger everyday people go to war, that’s a risk,” Jesse said. “People drive every day, that’s a risk. This death rate is super low in Douglas County.”
As of Sunday night, 28 people have died in Douglas County since the COVID-19 pandemic began, ranking seventh in the state for deaths.
Chris Fuselier, the owner of Blake Street Tavern in Denver, heard the restaurant was open and went to Castle Rock to see for himself. He told CBS4 he understands the pain that businesses are going through, and many are having to close for good. However, he’s afraid opening up like this will put other restaurants in jeopardy.
“I do worry about the invitation to the general public that we’re open for business and we’re not caring about social distancing guidelines and restrictions,” Fieselier said. “I completely get what they are doing and trying to save themselves financially, I don’t agree with them on the health aspect.”
Tri-County Health issued a statement about the restaurant to CBS4 on Sunday: We are disappointed that Cookies and Crème has decided to ignore the governor’s safer-at-home order and open up today with no attention to social distancing. This decision runs the risk of undermining the impact that other Douglas County businesses and residents have achieved over the last seven weeks by taking various social distancing measures. As the entity charged with enforcing the governor’s statewide safer-at-home public health order, we will follow up with this restaurant to ensure that they, like other restaurants in the county, take appropriate steps to protect the public health, by limiting service to curbside and take-out service.
The Arellano’s said they have received many unhappy emails, reviews and notes since the news got out of their opening. However, they were thankful to see so much support as well.
“You can stand up and risk everything, we’re risking everything anyways as a small business,” Jesse said. “So if we’re going to crash and burn, we’re going to make our stand. Thank you to the many customers who came out to support us.”