A Rifle restaurant owner’s civil disobedience when it comes to following state and local health orders appears to have come to an end, at least for the time being, with her efforts now focused on getting Garfield County to reinstate her retail food establishment license.
“My goal right now is just to get my license back,” Lauren Boebert, the owner of Shooters Grill, said Monday.
She had a brief court hearing Monday, held via WebEx, on whether a preliminary injunction should be issued requiring her to abide by the state and local directives. The hearing was continued until next Tuesday so she can get an attorney and arrange for witnesses to testify. An emergency, temporary restraining order against her remains in place.
Around May 7, Boebert began offering dining inside her restaurant, contrary to what is allowed by the Polis administration or Garfield County because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Garfield County commissioners on Friday endorsed a request to the state that, if approved, would provide for a variance that in part would allow restaurants, churches and gyms to operate at 50% occupancy.
Boebert had defied a cease-and-desist order last Tuesday, and 9th District Court Judge Anne Norrdin on Wednesday then issued the temporary restraining order.
On Thursday, Boebert moved her patron tables outside the restaurant’s front doors and served customers there. Garfield County Public Health then suspended her license on Friday for a minimum of 30 days or until she receives approval to reopen her restaurant.
The county’s suspension order says the previous orders don’t distinguish between indoor and outdoor dining. With the suspension, the restaurant can no longer provide take-out services and could remain closed even after other restaurants in the county are allowed to open.
According to the complaint the county had filed for a temporary restraining order, violating a public health order is a misdemeanor crime that besides a fine or imprisonment could include liability for the expense the county incurs “in removing any nuisance, source of filth or cause of sickness.”
Heather Beattie, an assistant county attorney, indicated to Norrdin on Monday that the county is interested in pursuing a contempt-of-court finding if the temporary restraining order is violated.
Boebert, a Republican candidate for the 3rd Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, said Monday she will comply with the restraining order and cease-and-desist order.
She said she is trying to reach the health department to work on getting her license back, but hadn’t yet heard back at least by midday Monday.
The county said later Monday in a statement, “Staff will be in contact with Lauren Boebert to advise her of necessary actions at the needed junctures in the process of reinstatement.”
Boebert said she doesn’t view her recent efforts to open the restaurant as having backfired, and said she knew from the start the possible consequences.
She added, “The reason for all this was because my employees need to be paid, and that has not changed.”
Boebert said reopening the restaurant let her make payroll last week. She’s now selling T-shirts and other store merchandise, hoping it might help her make the next payroll.
Supporters also have been taping cash to the door of Shooters — totaling something under $100 by midday Monday, Boebert said.
“I feel that any amount is extremely generous,” she said.
Demonstrators supporting Boebert also gathered outside the county public health offices Monday in Rifle.
The county filing seeking the restraining order indicates that the county had received multiple complaints about the restaurant being open for dine-in service, as well as an inquiry from another Rifle restaurant owner asking if it could open on-premises dining “since Shooters Grill was now open to the public.”
Norrdin’s restraining order found that “existing public health laws and orders are intended to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19,” and if noncompliance continues, “irreparable injury, loss or damage will result to the public health … .”