Castle Rock urges governor to reopen businesses

Councilmember Bracken vows to support operations that reopen

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The Town of Castle Rock sent a letter to Gov. Jared Polis on May 19 urging the state to reopen restaurants and gyms.

Multiple councilmembers said during the May 19 council meeting that businesses are struggling, and they believe it’s possible to begin safely reopening the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

One councilmember said he will stand behind businesses that choose to reopen — even if that is before the state gives permission — so long as the operations socially distance and encourage good hygiene.

The town told Polis in an April 28 letter that most of its businesses were closed or had greatly reduced operations. Since then some businesses have begun operating on a less limited scale but are still experiencing significant financial losses, according to the May 19 letter.

The town urged lightening restrictions on restaurants and gyms in particular.

“Current COVID-19 case data from the Tri-County Health Department shows that the present level of restrictions is no longer necessary within Castle Rock and Douglas County. Collectively, we have submitted multiple variance requests that are as of yet unanswered by the state,” the letter reads.

Douglas County on May 18 submitted a variance to open restaurants, gyms and houses of worship with certain restrictions in place.

The town’s letter, signed by Mayor Jason Gray, asks Polis to allow Castle Rock businesses to reopen “while self-managing the safety protocols they deem best for their employees and customers” with input from the state health department.

Gray said during the council meeting that the letter was not in defiance of the county’s work “but to come alongside of them.”

Decisions regarding how and when to reopen should be made by the business owners and their customers, the town’s letter states.

“Our community is growing increasingly frustrated with their inability to conduct business in the manner they believe most fit for their families,” the letter says.

Councilmember Kevin Bracken, speaking for himself and not on behalf of council, said he is willing to support business that feel they need to reopen, so long as the operations follow some of the public health recommendations for curbing COVID-19.

Bracken said he was contacted by four businesses — two gyms and two restaurants — that were frustrated with the shutdowns and eager to reopen. Bracken could not tell the owners when the state would lift restrictions because the state has not made those announcements, he said.

“My recommendation back to them was do the right thing, and if you do the right thing and you want to open, you can open whenever you want to,” he said.

When asked for elaboration, Bracken defined “the right thing” as requiring employees to wear masks and gloves, ensure people space six feet apart and requiring customers to wash hands.

Bracken declined to name the businesses that contacted him and said he did not want to assume legal liability for their actions, and any consequences for reopening would be on a business that does so.

Bracken said he was not recommending businesses open in defiance of public health orders or state law but if they did out of necessity, he is willing to attend their reopening and support them.

“If they do the right thing then they have my support. If they are looking to create an unsafe environment then I’m not interested in it,” he said.

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