LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – As Colorado’s most populated counties transition to level red status, restaurants in those areas are now forced to shut down all dine-in services. Larimer County, in northern Colorado, is one of the last of the major counties to be placed in the new phase of red restrictions. The orders will go into effect Tuesday, at 5 p.m. Weld County, Larimer’s neighbor to the east, is one of the counties in Colorado that has already announced they will not enforce Colorado’s restrictions themselves, leaving the responsibility up to the state.
Built at the border of the two counties, in southeastern Loveland, local business Nordy’s BBQ and Grill says they will have no other option but to lay off some employees as a result of the red status. Though the county nearby is turning its back on the order, Nordy’s is physically in Larimer County. Restaurant General Manager Jaime Nordhagen said her staff will comply with all state and county health guidelines, even though it will cost people’s jobs.
“It’s hard,” Nordhagen told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas. “We, finally, were starting to get back to normal. We’re (now) going to have to lay some people off again, which is unfortunate.”
Nordhagen said her staff has gone above and beyond to make the dining experience as safe as possible for guests, like other restaurants in the area. For weeks she has only been seating 100 people at a time, even though her building capacity is nearly 400.
While she said she doesn’t like the term “scapegoat” in general, she couldn’t help but to wonder if the restaurant industry was being held to higher standards than most other service companies.
“We’re an easy industry to put regulations on,” Nordhagen said. “You can still go to the grocery store. You can still go to the hardware store. But, we were expected to completely change the way we do business.
Nordhagen said Nordy’s saw sales cut in nearly half during the last shutdown of dining, and it would’ve been even more drastic if their location and following weren’t in their favor. Nordy’s has plenty of space around it to allow lines for makeshift drive-thru, and has regulars who wanted to continue to support the business. She said she knew other restaurants weren’t as fortunate, and were hit more severely.
However, she felt the industry had learned from the last shutdown of dining and could safely navigate forward through the recent spike of COVID cases.
“We take health extremely seriously. But, it is hard because we have 100 staff members and their families depending on us,” Nordhagen said.
With Thanksgiving and Christmas nearing, and dozens of employees looking at a second set of layoffs, Nordhagen said she hoped the state and counties would find a quick response to the spike in COVID cases so that local restaurants could bounce back again.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that this will be a quick thing,” Nordhagen said.
While health orders are left to county departments to enforce, and not law enforcement agencies, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith said he would not permit his agency to assist in any health department actions taken against local businesses and families.
“Health orders are not ours to enforce. We have no business invading people’s homes to determine who is in compliance with those restrictions and I have no intention of shutting down businesses. We can’t destroy our community to ‘save’ it. And given that the police reform bill makes local peace officers personally liable for violations of Constitutional Rights, the legislature and governor have recognized that we have an enhanced understanding of those rights and an obligation to assure that we aren’t infringing on citizen’s rights.”