April Arellano is the Colorado restaurant owner who made headlines for reopening her business, C&C Coffee & Kitchen, for dine-in service in defiance of a statewide order. Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, ordered restaurants, bars and coffeehouses to close except for takeout and delivery in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
But Arellano and husband Jesse said they needed to resume regular operations in order to keep their business afloat. They decided to open the Castle Rock, Colorado, restaurant on Mother’s Day and attracted large crowds. Images shared on social media revealed customers were not wearing masks and no one was abiding by social distancing guidelines.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office criticized Arellano’s decision to reopen, telling the Denver Post restaurants that open too early are “endangering the lives of their staff, customers, and community.”
On May 11, the Tri-County Health Department ordered the Arellanos to close its restaurant entirely after they continued dine-in service on May 11. The department’s executive director, John M. Douglas, said in a prepared statement that it was “disheartening that this restaurant has chosen to move ahead of the public orders and not even consider implementing best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is not fair to the rest of the community and other business owners that are following Safer at Home and doing their part.”
Heavy has reached out to Arellano through the company’s email account for comment. We have not heard back.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Arellanos Posted About Constitutional Rights the Day Before Reopening the Restaurant & Had Signs On the Front Door About Freedom
April Arellano’s husband, Jesse, told KDVR-TV the decision to reopen C&C was not meant to be a political move. But signs on the front door of the restaurant and a social media message suggest the opposite.
On May 9, the day before the reopening, the Arellos posted a message to the restaurant’s Twitter handle. The post tagged President Donald Trump and read, “We are standing for America, small businesses, the Constitution and against the overreach of our governor in Colorado!!” It included several flag emojis and a link to a Facebook page that has since been deleted.
C&C had a sign on the door that read: “Attention! Our freedom doesn’t end where your fear begins. If you are scared, stay at home! If you are afraid to be within 6 ft. of another person, do not enter this business! God bless America. Land of the ‘free’ and home of the brave.” Video shared by CBS Denver also shows a sign that references the Declaration of Independence and attempts by leaders such as Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini to take America’s freedoms away.
Jesse Arellano told KDVR, “It’s a choice. If they don’t want to come out, don’t come out. That’s what we’re fighting for is freedom. This is America. If we don’t want to wear a mask, we don’t want to wear a mask. We want to wear a mask, we want to wear a mask.”
2. Arellano Said the Restaurant Was On the Verge of Going Out of Business If They Didn’t Reopen
Hundred of people packed C&C Coffee and Kitchen on Mother’s Day, Arellano told local news outlets. She shared a video to Facebook to show off the large crowd, explaining that there was a line out the door and that the patio was packed, as well. Arellano told the audience, “So much for some of those people saying nobody would show up.”
Arellano has since made her Facebook posts private. The only post currently visible on her personal page is an image of the American flag in front of C&C. But CBS Denver archived the video and it can be seen here.
Arellano told Colorado Community Media she had no choice but to reopen. She said that after more than two weeks without dine-in service, “We were failing. We had to do something.” She added she was not concerned about possibly spreading the coronavirus. “We in the service industry have been taking precautions for years. We wash and sanitize everything anyway… People are piling into (retailers). So right now, I don’t really see the difference.”
In an interview with CBS Denver, Arellano and her husband Jesse said they felt small businesses should have the option to reopen because, as Jesse put it, “we live with danger every day.”
3. Colorado Lawmaker Patrick Neville Was Among the Patrons on Mother’s Day & Says the ‘Left Mob Is Coming After’ Him For Posting a Picture Alongside Arellano
Arellano could face a penalty from the Tri-County Health Department for choosing to reopen the restaurant while the Safer-at-Home order remained in place. According to Colorado Community Media, Arellano shared on Facebook that the Castle Rock Police Department had called the health department about the violation. Restaurants and bars in Colorado are supposed to remain closed, except for takeout and delivery, until at least May 31.
The health department released the following statement to CBS Denver:
We are disappointed that Cookies and Crème has decided to ignore the Governor’s Safer at Home order and open up today with no attention to social distancing. This decision runs the risk of undermining the impact that other Douglas County businesses and residents have achieved over the last seven weeks by taking various social distancing measures. As the entity charged with enforcing the Governor’s statewide Safer at Home Public Health Order, we will follow up with this restaurant to ensure that they, like other restaurants in the county, take appropriate steps to protect the public health, by limiting service to curbside and take-out service.
But Arellano has the support of at least one Colorado lawmaker. State representative Patrick Neville was among the customers who gathered at C&C Coffee and Kitchen on May 10. He posted a photo alongside Arellano to his Facebook page and noted that it was a “packed house.”
A few hours after posting the picture, Neville shared that he had received backlash for going to the restaurant by some constituents. He wrote, “The left mob is coming after me over this hardcore. I have to take a step back and think “they are this crazy angry because I went to a coffee shop?” It is shocking that we have gotten to this point, but it was my pleasure to attend.” Neville also received multiple messages in the comments from people who praised him for supporting C&C Coffee and Kitchen, with at least one person calling him a “true patriot.”
Neville further explained in the comments that he had wanted to support the Arellanos because they have been kind to his family in the past. He said his wife was hit by a vehicle and injured outside of the restaurant a few years ago. Neville said the Arellanos brought hot cocoa outside for his daughters and had prayed with his family.
4. The Arellanos Could Face a Fine or Even Jail Time For Violating the Safer-at-Home Order
April and Jesse Arellano moved to Castle Rock, Colorado, in 2013, according to the C&C Coffee and Kitchen website. They originally planned to use a trailer to open a mobile coffee shop but changed the gameplan after finding the building on Trail Boss Drive in Castle Rock.
C&C Coffee and Kitchen has since expanded to include a breakfast menu and Korean fusion items. A second location opened in Colorado Springs in 2019.
But the Arellanos could face severe consequences for choosing to reopen dine-in service early. According to the Safer-at-Home order issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health, the punishment could include fines or even jail time. That portion of the order reads:
This Order will be enforced by all appropriate legal means. Local authorities are encouraged to
determine the best course of action to encourage maximum compliance. Failure to comply with
this order could result in penalties, including jail time, and fines, and may also be subject to
discipline on a professional license based upon the applicable practice act.
Health officials contacted the Arellanos two days before the reopening and told them not to go through with it, the couple told KDVR-TV. But no state officials showed up at the restaurant on Mother’s Day to enforce that request. In an email to the Arellanos, Heavy asked whether they had been threatened with a fine. We have not heard back.
5. Arellano’s Decision to Reopen Received Mixed Responses From Customers
C&C Coffee and Kitchen customers expressed mixed reactions to Arellano’s choice to resume dine-in service. Hannah Nunn told Colorado Community Media that she and her family were excited to visit the restaurant on Mother’s Day because they were weary of social distancing measures.
In the reviews for the restaurant on Yelp, a woman named Michelle wrote that she visited on May 10. She described the food as delicious and did not mention the Safer-at-Home order. “The place was immaculate and staff was masked, friendly and attentive. Everything was cooked perfect and packaged nicely.” The reviews also include a comment from a woman who said, “April does a lot for the community and her town and we loved she opened up for the mothers around town. She is truly my hero. Wish more businesses would follow her lead.” Another customer wrote, “I stand behind April in these trying times for us all.”
But customer Nick Whitehill had a different reaction. He told the Denver Post that he ordered food online and expected to pick it up at the curb. He was wearing a mask when he went inside, but ultimately decided against taking the food after seeing that staff members were not wearing masks. Whitehill said he posted photos of the crowd to social media as a warning to others. (The tweets have since been removed).
Fellow Colorado business owner Chris Fuselier wrote on social media that he felt C&C’s decision to resume dine-in service would ultimately do more harm to the local restaurant industry. He wrote, “Hey C & C Breakfast + Korean Kitchen Owner, what you allowed today completely harms the Colorado Restaurant Industry! You may have won the battle but you will lose the war. The rest of us Owners will be watching what the State, Douglas County and Castle Rock will do to you! Full Disclosure: I went to Castle Rock and met C&C owners. They told me of their financial struggles. As a fellow independent restaurant owner, I understand their pain. HOWEVER, I strongly disagree with their decision to blatantly disregard social distancing restrictions.”