LOVELAND, Colo. (CBS4) – More than 65 Loveland-based companies have signed a pact to stay open for business as Larimer County moves to Level Red restrictions. Level Red on the state's COVID-19 dial is one step away from Level Purple, a complete shutdown, and restricts restaurants from having any indoor dining or guests.
The businesses that joined the agreement believed the county and state are imposing restrictions which are unfair and unnecessary to small businesses.
"We are not going to shut down," said Clay Caldwell, owner of Betta Gumbo in downtown Loveland.
Caldwell, who has used his business and kitchen to feed thousands of meals free-of-charge amid the coronavirus pandemic, said he joined the pact because the government was allegedly placing much blame on small businesses which may not have any record of COVID-19 spread.
"It is about fairness," Caldwell told CBS4's Dillon Thomas. "Each of these businesses have families that they require to make money so they can live, and they have every right to that."
Caldwell, speaking on behalf of the growing list of companies agreeing to defy Level Red enforcement, said he believed big box stores were unfairly being allowed to move forward with operations while small companies with more direct oversight of guest safety are being chastised.
"Here in restaurants and bars, and small businesses across Loveland, we are being penalized and coming under a verdict which was unjust. That pisses me off," Caldwell said. "If we get any more sanitized in here, I could start doing surgery and make a hell of a lot more money."
Local brewer Morgen Harrington was one of those who joined the list. She accused the county of enforcing health guidelines based on the rise of COVID-19 cases across the state, rather than focusing based on each individual community.
She, and the other business owners, called on Larimer County and Gov. Jared Polis to allow a "Five Star Program" throughout the county, which would give qualified individual businesses the ability to operate under lesser restrictions during a county-wide Level Red status.
The concept was first proposed, approved and adopted in Mesa County.
"Businesses are allowed to operate under yellow restrictions if the county goes to level red," Harrington said. "We want that to happen in Loveland."
A letter obtained by CBS4 written to health officials, and Polis, called on health officials to adopt the star program in Larimer County. The letter, provided below in-full, was signed by every state legislator in Larimer County.
However, in a written statement to CBS4, Larimer County's Katie O'Donnell said the county is unable to adopt such a system at this time.
"We prefer to work with (local businesses) on this, but the state has made it clear they'll pull retail food licenses for noncompliance. That's what we are trying to avoid, as a minimum revocation is at least 60 days and they would be completely closed," O'Donnell wrote. "We've already asked to be approved for a 5-star program like Mesa's. We were told none are granted in the red status. Mesa's was granted when they were in protect our neighbor and it was allowed on a trial basis."
"Every business in Colorado has to follow our laws," Polis said in a media conference.
"This is not political. This is because we care about our community," Harrington said.
Caldwell said he had no intention of closing down and said he would take this battle as far as necessary to protect his employees, business and fellow entrepreneurs.
"I will not let my staff go hungry, or without a roof over their head for Christmas. They have a right to survive," Caldwell said. "I'm here to say 'Don't tread on me.' I am going to survive. My people will prosper. Our community will grow stronger. And, this will happen because we all have a portion to do."
Letter to state and local officials from local lawmakers:
Dear Governor Polis,
Thank you to all of you for your tireless work over the last several days as we work together to reverse the COVID trend. We appreciate that none of this work is easy and that there are no good answers.
We understand you've heard about the 5-Star Variance program that Mesa County Health and the Chamber put into place in August to encourage business to do the right thing and to help create safe opportunities for business to continue. They now have over 400 business that have gone through a special accreditation process to receive the 5-Star Variance, allowing them to function more openly than the current county level. In the example of Mesa, they are at Red and certified businesses are able to function at Orange.
The concept is fairly simple – a business applies for the variance including using a form that outlines minimum expectations (enforcing mask wearing, social distancing, specific cleaning, etc) and "above and beyond" requirements. The Health Department then reviews the application, sends a temporary staffer out to check and make sure the business is in compliance and then issues the 5 Star approval. The Chamber then promotes those receiving the 5 Star approval - with a celebration, press release, advertisements, social media, etc. The program is open to all businesses and is free. Mesa is using CARES money to pay for the program and currently have $20,000 invested with the sizeable portion of it going to advertising.
The undersigned Larimer County Legislators urge you to immediately approve a 5 Star Program for Larimer County. We must provide opportunities for our businesses to survive. Attached is information from the Grand Junction Chamber and links to the resources created by the Health Department.
Senator Rob Woodward
Senator Joann Ginal
Representative Jeni Arndt
Representative Hugh McKean
Representative Perry Buck
Representative Cathy Kipp
Loveland Businesses Included In Pact To Stay Open:
Bob Shaffer: Rock Coast Brewery
Kerry Drake: Drätz Brewing Company
Julie Shaffer: AKA Kitchen
Christian Jorgensen: Jorgensen Laboratories, Inc.
Ashly Tugmon: Blue Mesa Salon and Boutique
Mark Sommers: Berthoud Brewing Co
Cody Bays: Northern Colorado Marine
Clay Caldwell: Betta Gumbo
Robin Frahm: Rock Coast Brewery
Kim Ellis: Ellis Ranch Event Center
Rick Frahm: Rock Coast Brewery
Geoffery Frahm: The Group Inc Real Estate
Shane McWatters: Sweetheart City Racing
Jay Watterson: Loveland Athletic Club
Ryann Carlson: reDefine Fit
Christen French: Wicked Tequila Room
Dave Orr: Dave Orr Insurance Agency Inc.
Duane Higgins/Dave Currie: Big Beaver Brewing Company LTD
Mike Severance: Cactus Grille
Jeanine Cardot: Mortgage loan officer
Derek Krasuski: Northern Colorado Carpets
Thadeus Krehbiel: Krow Hill Digital LLC
Kristi Dressler: Loveland & South Lifestyle
Kristen Edmunds: American Dream Property Solutions
Randy Isaac: Catalyst Inspections
Don Chapman: Grimm Brothers Brewhouse
Christi Sullivan: Loveland Yoga & Core Fitness
Mike Severance: Cactus Grille
Tracie Hartman: Fresh Plate Catering
Shawna White: Big Thompson CrossFit
Cliff White: Big Thompson CrossFit
Jacob Fellure: Jacob Fellure Agency
Melanie Lewis: Hands Down Massage
Shaun Adams: Adams Chiropractic and Wellness
Dave Hazen: Catch-All Mini Storage
Roxie Ellis: Ellis Ranch Event Center & Wedding Park
Terry Ellis: Ellis Ranch Event Center & Wedding Park
Kerri Reiger-Cole: Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory
Barry Gustafson: Advantage Insurance
Jennifer Lunt: The Beauty Lounge Salon & Boutique
Krystal Thomas: Nu-Reflections Medspa
Mark E Wright: Self
Geoffery Frahm: The Group Inc Real Estate
Jon-Mark C. Patterson: Jon-Mark C. Patterson PC
Abe Pilato: Grimm Brothers Brewhouse
William Svoboda: Edgetronix, LLC
Evan Mann: Wooden Mountain Bouldering Gym
Rick Baumann: R & D Enterprises
Kaits Cleaning LLC
CNC Remoldeing: Carlos Delval
Armando Carrion: Ace of Trades
Wendy Backel: Wendy's Way Cleaning
All Restart Services
Mark Baer: SCR Performance
Taylor Baker: Tab Enterprises
Start to Finish Construction
Colorado Earth Works
Axe to Grind
Dennis Callahan: Callahan Electric
Empire Painting LLC
Mountain Edge Curbing
Scott J and B Mini Storage
Kathy Weiner: Weimer Construction, LLC
Stacy Tamlin: Aqua Bay Tans
Fadil Astafaj: CJ's Patio Grill
Senor Rafaels at the Mexican Inn
Mike McCarty: Loveland Chophouse
Chad and Sue Miller: McGraffs American Grill
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