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As states prepare to lift restrictions on businesses such as bars and restaurants, scenes that played out in several states on Mother’s Day weekend shows how doing so safely amid the coronavirus pandemic may prove to be challenging — especially given President Trump’s preference to reopen quickly.
The owners of C&C Coffee and Kitchen, a breakfast cafe in Castle Rock, Colo., opened its doors to patrons on Sunday in defiance of Colorado’s public health order that limits restaurants statewide to takeout and delivery services.
Crowds packed the restaurant, located about 25 miles south of Denver.
And in a viral video taken by a local news reporter, it appeared that virtually no one was practicing social distancing. And just one customer could be seen wearing a mask.
(“ATTENTION: Our freedom doesn’t end where your fear begins,” a sign on the cafe’s front door read. “If you are afraid to be within 6 feet of another person, do not enter this business!”)
”We are standing for America, small businesses, the Constitution and against the overreach of our governor in Colorado!” the Castle Rock cafe wrote in a tweet, tagging Trump.
In response, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced Monday that the state was suspending the restaurant’s operating license for 30 days “until it’s established that there is no longer a threat to public health.”
“We all have laws that we agree with and laws that we disagree with,” Polis said. “But it’s our responsibility as Coloradans and as Americans to follow the law.”
“It’s very sad when businesses operate illegally and workers lose jobs through no fault of their own,” Polis continued. “Some businesses might face costly court battles or even worse, the deaths of owners or patrons.
“We hope and we pray that no one who went to C&C Coffee & Kitchen had coronavirus,” Polis said. “And we hope that everybody is safe. But ... if 40 or 50 restaurants operated illegally like C&C did, it’s almost a statistical certainty that some would have had coronavirus outbreaks.”
Polis, a Democrat, is scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House on Wednesday to seek more federal aid for Colorado’s response to the coronavirus.
Through Sunday, there were more than 19,000 confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases in Colorado, and at least 973 deaths.
The state’s “Safer at Home” order mandates that restaurants, bars and cafes cannot offer dine-in services until at least May 26.
Last week, a restaurant in nearby Centennial, Colo., was shuttered by the state’s health department because it was allowing customers to sit at tables and ignoring social-distancing measures. According to the Denver Post, it reopened Friday for takeout and delivery after the owner agreed to follow public health orders.
C&C Coffee and Kitchen owner April Arellano could not be reached for comment.
“I expected it to be busy. I never expected this,” Arellano told Colorado Community News. “I’m so happy so many people came out to support the Constitution and stand up for what is right. We did our time. We did our two weeks. We did more than two weeks.”
In other parts of the country, restaurants that legally reopened for takeout over Mother’s Day weekend were overwhelmed by large crowds — and some angry customers.
At a Red Lobster outside of Pittsburgh, police were called to disperse disgruntled patrons who waited in line for hours after the manager announced that it would not be filling their take-out orders.
And on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, a popular ice cream shop was forced to temporarily close just hours after it reopened because its young staff faced abusive comments from angry customers who disregarded the store’s request to order ahead of time and faced long waits to be served by the overworked counter staff.
“One of my best workers quit yesterday at the end of her shift,” Mark Lawrence, owner of Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlour, told Boston 25 News on Saturday. “But the words she was called and the language, you wouldn’t even say in a men’s locker room. And to say it to a 17-year-old kid, they should be ashamed of themselves.”
Click here for the latest coronavirus news and updates. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please refer to the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.