Restaurant protest

The masked, socially distanced staff of Meat & Cheese — pictured outside the restaurant in November — make their case for keeping restaurants open. “We’ve been fighting this for a really long time,” Meat & Cheese manager Sam Hayes said Monday. 

Since the Pitkin County Board of Health's decision to shut down indoor dining as part of level red COVID-19 restrictions Monday, the Pitkin County Restaurant Alliance has formed and mobilized, and it's suing the county.

The newly formed nonprofit filed a lawsuit in Pitkin County District Court Thursday evening seeking a temporary restraining order that would halt the implementation of the health board’s motion to shutter indoor dining as part of moving into the state’s level red COVID-19 restrictions, set to go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

“By filing this Complaint, the Alliance is not seeking to challenge all COVID-19 regulations and restrictions mandated by governmental authorities. Rather, the Alliance is seeking to ensure that restrictions that will affect employment of approximately 1,500 Pitkin County residents are based on concrete scientific and medical evidence, not guesswork, especially when the Defendants’ own data and evidence contradicts its position,” the complaint reads.

The lawsuit implores the defendants — Pitkin County, Pitkin County Public Health Department, Pitkin County Board of Health and Pitkin County Public Health Director Jordana Sabella — to instead maintain the “status quo” set by the previous “orange-plus-plus” restrictions, which observed level-red restrictions in most sectors but allowed continued indoor dining.

“Strict application, and proper enforcement, of these guidelines will serve the dual purpose of reducing COVID-19 transmission without singling out and destroying restaurants and resident employees’ livelihoods and thereby further weakening the local economy,” attorney Chris Bryan, of Garfield & Hecht, wrote in the complaint. 

The Alliance mobilized quickly, having already established a website at pitkincountyrestaurantalliance.com, at which the organization makes its case for its existence, and having retained counsel to pursue legal action against the county for its health board decision.

“The Pitkin County Restaurant Alliance is a group of restaurant owners, industry professionals, and concerned citizens formed with the purpose of petitioning for judicial review of the Public Health Order issued by Pitkin County on January 12,” the coalition describes itself on the website. “Despite overwhelming objection from the community, the County ordered restaurants into level red on the state’s COVID dial, closing indoor dining in Pitkin County and further restricting operations as the two-week incidence rate is already declining.”

 

This story will be updated.

Megan Tackett is the editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at megan@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @MeganTackett10.