On Mother's Day weekend, one Castle Rock, Colorado restaurant defied a statewide public health order and opened its doors to the kind of dine-in customers who didn't care about social distancing requirements, or about wearing face coverings when you're surrounded by strangers.
"OUR FREEDOM DOESN'T END WHERE YOUR FEAR BEGINS," C&C Coffee and Kitchen wrote on a sign that it taped to its front door. "IF YOU ARE SCARED STAY AT HOME! IF YOU ARE AFRAID TO BE WITHIN 6FT OF
ANOTHER PERSON DO NOT ENTER THIS BUSINESS! GOD BLESS AMERICA!" Fast forward two months, and the restaurant's customers are going to see another sign on its door, except this one will probably say "CLOSED."
In a lengthy, self-pitying, Bible-quoting Facebook post, owners Jesse and April Arellano announced that C&C Coffee and Kitchen would be shutting its doors for good this weekend. "This is America, land of the free home of the brave, yet citizens are being treated as criminals, while criminals are praised," they wrote. "'Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!' (Isaiah 5:20 NKJV).
"Over and over we see that the numbers of covid are manipulated, skewed and incentivized. Over and over we see the Government chip away our rights, chip away at our choices, and chip away at our freedom. Using public health departments, even unelected ones to make decisions [...] With this being said, I am sad to say that we are choosing not to renew the lease at the Castle Rock store." (A second location, in Colorado Springs, will remain open.)
It's probably accurate to say that the restaurant's Mother's Day defiance didn't exactly go as the Arellanos had hoped. "I'm so happy so many people came out to support the Constitution and stand up for what is right," April Arellano told Colorado Community Media on that Sunday. "We did our time. We did our two weeks. We did more than two weeks [...] and we were failing. We had to do something.”
After seeing the photographs and watching some of the couple's interviews, it seems like Colorado governor Jared Polis decided that he had to do something too. His version of 'something' turned out to be suspending the restaurant's business license for 30 days, ordering it to close for a month, and deeming it an immediate health hazard.
"I joined most Coloradans in our frustration watching videos of people illegally packed into restaurants and thinking about all the moms and grandmothers and aunts and everyone who was put at increased risk of dying from this horrible virus,” he said at the time.
In their Facebook post, the Arellanos wrote that, if they had the chance to say something to Polis, they would tell him “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” But in addition to that out-of-context New Testament quote, they also filed a lawsuit against Polis, the entire State of Colorado, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the executive director of the CDPHE, and the Tri-County Health Department.
According to Colorado Public Radio, the lawsuit alleged that the agencies' decision to temporarily close the restaurant was "unsupported by substantial evidence" and done not, you know, because of the global pandemic, but out of a "desire for revenge" against them.
"The governor singled out our restaurant for summary license suspension and announced it during a press conference," they said in a statement. "That was just another example of the way the governor has misused the temporary powers the legislature granted to him in case of an emergency."
The restaurant was allowed to reopen on June 14, but the couple claims that the business was no longer sustainable due to a combination of "all the restrictions" and kitchen staff that they described as "a problem."
Their announcement was met with a mixed response from commenters. "I'm on your side of the aisle, but you were in the wrong," one person wrote. "And you should use scripture to learn and grow for yourself, not treat it like a weapon to point at others." And another added that they "expect sympathy, pity, and care when you couldn’t exercise the same for anyone else."
Life comes at you fast, I guess. Sometimes, it just takes two months.