By Dillon Thomas

LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4)– When Gov. Jared Polis deferred COVID-19 health guidelines to each individual county as Colorado slowly reopens, some businesses across the state found themselves held to higher standards than their peers just a short distance away. Starting Friday, Polis allowed each individual county to decide what criteria businesses must follow within respective county lines.

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Counties like Douglas, Weld and Elbert elected to lift all restrictions. That meant Coloradans would not need to social distance or lower capacity within licensed establishments.

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While some applauded the three counties for completely reopening, others felt it was a knee-jerk reaction that would hurt public health.

Caught in the middle are the businesses, specifically restaurants, that straddle the county lines of counties keeping restrictions and those not.

“(Counties establishing health restrictions) didn’t really change any of our restrictions from what we have been at,” said Jaimie Nordhagen, General Manager of Nordy’s BBQ in far-east Loveland.

Nody’s, a popular restaurant that saw full-capacity nights on a regular basis before the pandemic, has been operating at 70% capacity for months now. Though Polis said counties could make their own decisions as COVID-19 cases lower, Larimer chose to keep them the same.

Nordy’s is located one major intersection away from the Weld and Larimer county line. An imaginary line in the dirt is preventing them from fully opening their business and regaining full profits.

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“With distancing, you fill up a lot faster than you’re expecting to,” Nordhagen told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.

While that may sound like a good thing, Nordhagen said it is lowering their ability to bring in the profits they hope to. Lower capacity due to distancing means they have to turn away guests at times.

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“We’ve been very busy. But, with the restrictions on how many people we can fit in here with six-feet apart has been challenging,” Nordhagen said.

Nordhagen said she felt the different standards, which are based simply on geography, were unfair to business owners who are working hard to keep their employees on the payroll.

However, not everyone is on the same page on how they want the businesses to operate. Some customers at Nordy’s told CBS4 they felt it was time to allow full capacity, while others said they felt it was safer to maintain distancing.

“It is weird rules that don’t make sense,” said Tim Hager, a Nordy’s customer who lives in Larimer County. “Weren’t we supposed to take care of the people more vulnerable? I think we have done that. It is time to open up.”

On the contrary, Mike Smitham of Weld County said he felt it was best for the general public if restaurants maintained distancing for a few more months.

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“I want this over as bad as anybody does. But, I just don’t think we are ready. There is too much going on still,” Smitham said.

Nordhagen said, just a handful of months ago, Nordy’s was in the process of a second round of layoffs. Staff was cut after Polis forced counties to once again shut down due to COVID-19 infection rates.

Since then, she has worked to hire back any of the staff members that wanted to return. She said, even with the distancing enforced right now, she is now in the position of needing to hire more workers. While she hoped to someday soon have the same freedoms as Weld County, Nordhagen said they will continue to work under the restriction imposed by Larimer County.

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“We are so excited for our counterparts in Weld County, that they are able to do business, be open and make choices. Right now that is not where we are at. We will follow guidelines put out to us and hope that we can get there shortly,” Nordhagen said.

Dillon Thomas