LOVELAND — Representatives of nearly 100 restaurants, bars, breweries and other small businesses in Loveland have signed a letter to the Larimer County Department of Public Health and Environment (LCDPHE) refusing to shut down under the new “level red” designation on the state’s COVID dial.
In addition to the eateries and breweries the list includes tanning salons, gyms and others impacted by changes in capacity levels. Larimer County is scheduled to move to the red level at 5 p.m. today.
One of the biggest frustrations for those who signed onto the decision to fight back is that the county jumped over the orange level entirely, said Clay Caldwell, owner of Betta Gumbo, during a news conference on Tuesday morning.
“We have a very low rate of the COVID 19 virus (in Loveland),” Caldwell said. “As a community we have managed that really well. … Yet we’re being held to the highest level when we don’t deserve that.”
Caldwell said he is not asking people who are concerned about the spread to come to his establishment, adding it is about personal responsibility and doing what was right by his employees and his livelihood.
A complete list of businesses that signed the letter to the LCDPHE can be found here, but Caldwell and Morgen Harrington, one of the owners of Grimm Brothers Brewhouse named some of the places who also planned to remain open after the 5 p.m. shutdown time. In addition to Betta Gumbo and Grimm Brothers some of those included:
- McGraff’s American Grill
- Loveland Chophouse
- Senior Raphel at the Mexican Inn
- Wicked Tequila Room
- CJ’s Patio Grille
- AKA Kitchen
- Cactus Grille
- Numerous brew pubs
- Numerous health clubs, gyms and tanning salons
“This is not political,” Harrington said. “This is because we care about our community.”
Both restaurateurs said they will not lay off employees that they consider family right before the holidays because Larimer County health is basing their decision on the overall state picture and not what is taking place in Loveland.
“When I can go to a grocery store or a big box and stand in a line and they are never addressed, but restaurants, bars and small businesses across Loveland are being penalized and having to come under a verdict that was unjust, that pisses me off,” Caldwell said, adding he is solidified in his stance. “I’m just enough of a country boy to go toe-to-toe with you.”
Caldwell talked about why the community means so much to him, having lost his initial restaurant in the floods several years ago, and the community coming out to support him in his rebuilding efforts. Because of that he started giving back to city through various humanitarian efforts such as feeding 9,000 people who were put out of work during the first lockdown last spring.
Wednesday, he is serving more than 2,200 full Thanksgiving meals to people in need. He said he wants all the businesses in Loveland to stand up for their right to survive, pointing out the shutdowns cause other problems for the community, such as abuse and depression.
“There is more to this than just shut a restaurant down,” Caldwell said, calling the numbers LCDPHE is using a lie that would warrant a “butt whoopin’ ” where he’s from.
He vowed to fight the shutdown with whatever means possible, including a legal battle if necessary.
“I will go as far as I need to,” Caldwell said.
The group would like to see LCDPHE use a system similar to the Five-Star program in Mesa County where businesses that can prove they have met a certain threshold of best-practices in preventing spread can remain open at the yellow level.
“The health protocols that restaurants and bars and breweries are under are higher than most businesses,” Caldwell said. “If we get anymore sanitized in here, I could start doing surgery.”
However, CDPHE and Gov. Jared Polis initially revoked that program from Mesa when they moved them to red on the dial. Mesa County Commissioners voted not to comply and demanded a meeting with the Governor. The following day, Mesa was notified it could continue to use the program, but it is unclear how long that will last.
When asked about the threat of being shut down, Caldwell said he is in it for the long haul.
“I guess we’ll find out,” Caldwell said. “If they want to deal with this in the public eye, come on down. It is our constitutional right to survive. I have 2,200 meals to feed people tomorrow for Thanksgiving that would not have food if it were not for us. I will not disappoint them.”