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Restaurant owners in Douglas County speak out on closures while stores remain open

Posted at 5:38 PM, Dec 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-20 19:54:27-05

CASTLE ROCK, Colo. — Dozens of cars drove through Castle Rock on Sunday to support restaurants and small businesses whose owners say they are being unfairly burdened by COVID-19 regulations.

Douglas County is currently ranked as a red county on Colorado's COVID-19 dashboard amid an increase in coronavirus cases there.

"It's not equitable; it makes no sense," said Jose Espinoza, the chef and owner of Trestles Coastal Cuisine in Castle Rock. "There's no reason that allows a another business to be as full as they are when we can't have anybody inside at all."

The current regulations require restaurants to close all indoor dining. But stores and malls are allowed to open at 50% capacity.

"We're already trending to lose $120,000 in just this month," said Espinoza. "It's just not equitable to see other businesses not have the application of safety. Put on them that they're putting on us."

The dining room at Trestles Coastal Cuisine was silent on Sunday afternoon. But down the street at Castle Rock's malls and outlet stores, the parking lots were full of shoppers, many lining up outside of shops, waiting to get in.

"They need to allow us to open the same way, they're allowing everybody else to open," explained Espinoza, pointing down the street. "If we were both allowed 50% or both allowed 25%, that's equal."

According to the Colorado COVID website , restaurants and bars have contributed to 9.69% of new cases statewide in the past month compared to 7.24% of cases reported in retail stores. The largest contributors of new cases, according to the state website, are education and healthcare facilities with more than 20% of the new cases each.

"We understand that there's things that have to happen during a pandemic. And we've, we've adapted the best that we can," said Frankie Menna, chef and owner at PieZanos Pizza in Sedalia. "We're at a point where we can't go forward the way that we have been"

Menna says he has lost more than 60% of his business revenues this year, a toll that, if it continues, will likely lead to the closure of his store. The little space outside of his restaurant remains uncovered. He says he cannot afford to enclose it for the winter.

"We could have done one table for four people for about $10,000," he explained. "And that would have taken about a year to make up the money on that."

The COVID relief bill from Washington, DC, is likely to bring some relief to small restaurant owners in the coming weeks. However, Menna says it will do little for his business in the long run if the regulations bar customers from eating in his restaurant.

"Our elected officials are supposed to be there to lead us and unfortunately, they have not," said Menna. "The rules they have put in place make it impossible to survive if you are a small business."