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A restaurant in Texas — where statewide restrictions on dining rooms have been lifted — prepares to reopen.

Restaurants in still-restricted states attempt reopening dining rooms in defiance of state mandates

A handful of restaurants in Colorado, Illinois and California risk penalties by welcoming in guests before end of shutdown

C&C Coffee and Kitchen in Castle Rock, Colo. reportedly opened to sizeable Mother’s Day crowds on May 10 with guests — most of whom were not wearing masks – waiting in line to snag a table for brunch. The restaurant, one of two locations in Colorado, was one of several businesses throughout the country recently that have defied dine-in restrictions in states where restaurants remain limited to takeout and delivery only.

When the video of the packed Castle Rock restaurant went viral on Twitter, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis called the restaurant an "immediate health hazard” and ordered that the restaurant be closed. C&C Coffee and Kitchen’s license was suspended for at least 30 days.

“Customers will return en mass when they feel safe,” Polis said during a press conference. “When people see videos of people packed into a restaurant with no social distancing and no masks, people feel less safe and the widespread economic pain will only be prolonged.”

Although the restaurant did not respond to requests for comment, the C&C Coffee and Kitchen Twitter account posted an explanation of their business defiance, saying that they were standing up “against the overreach” of the governor.

C&C Coffee and Kitchen isn’t the only restaurant to rebel against statewide restrictions.  The owner of Newman & Co., a restaurant in Herrin, Ill. said he planned to reopen his restaurant on May 8, despite the fact that Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered statewide lockdown procedures in place until May 30.

In a since-deleted Facebook video, restaurant owner Rob Newman said that it was his “right as an American to be open and to do what I set out to do.”

“I have put so many hours into this place to make it the way that it is, and I will be damned if I let a governor keep me from opening or losing my business,” he said in the video. “It’s not going to happen.”

Since he posted the video, the Franklin-Williamson Bi-County Health Department asked him to voluntarily stop seating customers, according to local Illinois news station WCIA.

Following his run-in with the local health department, Newman posted a since-deleted response on Facebook saying, he “will find a way to sue (them)” but also said he is complying with the health department’s request that he stop seating customers.

Newman did not respond to requests for comment.

Although the Illinois Restaurant Association has been eager to get their industry back up and running, in response to acts of defiance from business owners, the association strongly recommend standing down and following the law:

“The IRA encourages all businesses to follow official rulings from the state of Illinois and guidance from public health experts as we approach a point when we can safely reopen Illinois’ economy,” the association said in a statement. “While the state must prioritize the safety and welfare of Illinois residents, we must also consider the operational and financial concerns of small business owners around the state as we roll out a smart, effective reopening strategy for Illinois.”

In California, where phase two of the state’s reopening guidance stipulated last week that some retailers could open for business — but restaurant dining rooms are still closed — a few restaurants are also openly defying Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders.

Aji Japanese Bistro in El Dorado Hills, Calif. reopened their dining room with safety procedures in place, which the restaurant outlined in their new dining room guidelines that include no loitering at the bar, six-feet distance between tables, limited events, and increased sanitization.

“It’s not about politics, defying orders, or trying to make an extra dollar,” Aji Japanese Bistro officials posted on Facebook. “With the help of El Dorado County, Aji hopes to help others move towards the new normal in dining.”

After reopening on Mother’s Day weekend, the restaurant posted an update that they would be closed on Monday and Tuesday this week to “reload and regroup” because they want to “get this right” before permanently reopening.

Orange County, Calif. restaurants Nomad’s Canteen and Citrus City Grille also reopened despite Newsom’s orders.

Nomad’s Canteen owner Jeff Gourley told the Orange County Register that he unsuccessfully tried social distancing when the restaurant reopened on May 4, and that they sold out of everything in the restaurant:

“We sold every tortilla, bottle, can and every margarita,” Gourley said. “These were the best three business days ever. People were buying shirts, beers for each other and expensive tequila shots for folks they didn’t even know.”

Citrus City Grille in Orange, meanwhile, said in a Facebook post that they had planned to reopen May 8, but because of “aggressive backlash,” they will only be open for takeout until state restrictions are lifted.

“My decision to open was for the matter of survival not political,” Citrus City Grille owner Steve Tsirtsis said in his Facebook post. “My intention was not to disrespect any authorities.”

The Orange County Health Care Agency did not respond in time to request for comment.  

Contact Joanna Fantozzi at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi

TAGS: Coronavirus
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