The Castle Rock restaurant that drew national attention for opening to in-person dining on Mother's Day in defiance of state and public health orders is suing the governor along with state and local agencies.
Attorney Randy Corporon filed the lawsuit on behalf of his clients, C&C Coffee and Kitchen owners Jesse and April Arellano, on May 22 in Douglas County District Court.
The Arellanos are alleging shutdowns of the restaurant industry during the COVID-19 pandemic were government overreach and constitutional violations that created “economic catastrophe” for their operation.
The suit names Gov. Jared Polis, the State of Colorado, the Tri-County Health Department, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan as defendants.
Tri-County Health Department had ordered the restaurant to close and CDPHE indefinitely pulled C&C's business license on May 11, the day after Mother's Day.
Polis and Hunsaker Ryan rebuked the business' actions in statements and press conferences following the Mother's Day incident, saying it could threaten lives and further the spread COVID-19.
The business's reopening sparked a fierce debate regarding when to ease restrictions on small businesses experiencing economic hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also drawing strong criticism for the restaurant's lack of social distancing that day.
Crowds packed the restaurant, masks were scarce and a line formed out the door.
The court filing refers to Polis' categorization of essential and non-essential businesses during his pandemic response as arbitrary.
The lawsuit states that “given the governor's unprecedented and unlawful exercise of executive authority” the court should “declare the defendants' actions against plaintiff ultra vires (beyond one's legal authority), unconstitutional and, therefore, void and of no effect.”
The Arellanos operate two locations of C&C Coffee and Kitchen, one in Castle Rock and one in Colorado Springs. The first opened in 2013 and the second in 2019.
The restaurants closed to dine-in on March 17 when the CDPHE issued a public health order closing all bars, restaurants, theaters, gyms and casinos, according to the filing.
The lawsuit states the Arellanos attempted to comply with the public health orders by offering curbside service until May 10, choosing to reopen its Castle Rock location then “due to several financial hardships.” The Castle Rock location has remained entirely closed since May 11.
The lawsuit says the coffee shop and restaurant earned a profit between Jan. 1 and March 14, but that revenue declined 55% the week of March 17 and it operated “at a further loss” from then on, despite laying off employees and cutting other costs.
The business is now in debt, the lawsuit states, and may not be able to reopen. The lawsuit asks the court to reverse the orders suspending its operation and award the Arellanos relief for attorney fees and costs incurred by suing.
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