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CO bar owner joins others in pact to defy COVID mandates: ‘I refuse’ to lay off staff before Christmas

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Colorado bar owner Morgen Harrington is one business owner who’s had enough with COVID-19 restrictions. She said Tuesday that she is “incredibly frustrated” with new coronavirus mandates in the state, which prohibit indoor dining. She also joined a pact of nearly 100 bars and restaurants that are defying restrictions and are continuing to serve customers inside.

The co-founder and chief financial officer of Grimm Brothers Brewhouse in Loveland, CO, told “Fox & Friends” that a “big part” of why she decided to join the pact is because she “can’t look my staff in the face and lay them off again.”

“I refuse to do that right before Christmas,” Harrington said. “We’ve got one woman that’s pregnant and she was in my office crying. I couldn’t do that.”

“We are not closing our doors. We are not laying off our staff,” said Harrington. “We are going to continue our quiet protest until we can come up with a better solution to this problem.

“I’m willing to lose my business license over losing my staff again, right before the holidays. But I also can’t pay them if we can’t stay open.”

Harrington flatly stated that Grimm Brothers Brewhouse “won’t survive another shutdown.”

Almost 100 businesses signed a letter that conveyed the same sentiment. They stated that the new restrictions are unfairly weighted and will lead to many going out of business.

Many business owners in Loveland say they aren’t willing to comply with the new guidelines that come with being in the state’s “Level Red.”

“I’m calling on all the businesses of Loveland, CO, to stand up for your right to survive,” said the owner of Betta Gumbo, Clay Caldwell.

Caldwell says his constitutional right to survive is being threatened by the state and Larimer County Health Department’s decision to move to “Level Red.”

“The board of health jumped the orange level to go to red by using the numbers from the state, not from our own county, and then Loveland is even less,” Caldwell said. “That’s foolishness.”

Colorado is not alone in living through business-killing coronavirus mandates. Many states led by Democratic governors such as Colorado Gov. Jared Polis have implemented strict precautions to allegedly combat the rapid spike in coronavirus cases just weeks before large family gatherings are held and getaway trips are embarked on during the holidays.

Polis announced the lockdown on Nov. 17. In “red level” counties, indoor dining is temporarily closed and restaurants and coffee shops will be limited to take out and delivery only. Outdoor dining is allowed for customers in groups with members of their own household as long as the last call is at 8 p.m. Bars remain closed. This move virtually ensures that many businesses will not survive the holiday season. They will never reopen.

Loveland is in Larimer County and is currently ranked as a “red level” county, according to The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. Last week Polis reportedly said that “any type of business that violates a health order — whether its hepatitis, salmonella or COVID – could lose their license to operate and lose their liquor license.” Loans are also threatened but at this point, businesses are standing up on their hind legs and are saying they will stay open regardless.

Fox host Brian Kilmeade asked the young business owner how she reacted when she first found out about the new restrictions.

“For us, that was really scary,” Harrington said. “We don’t have an outdoor patio and we’re only allowed to use our parking lot for extended patio seating on Saturday and Sunday so that would mean that we’d be closed except for two days a week and that’s not enough for us to pay our bills.”

Harrington invested “thousands of dollars to make big-time changes” and also removed 50% of seating in an effort to keep customers safe during the pandemic.

She admitted that government aid helped her business out, but it was “not enough to bring back our original staff and certainly not enough to keep our business afloat for another open-ended shutdown.” She said the formation of the pact “was to kind of give a cry for help so that someone would step in and help us come up with policies that make more sense.”

Harrington made a point that “grocery stores are allowed to operate under fewer restrictions than we had before the shutdown and it’s a madhouse when you go in there and we can’t operate with incredibly strict restrictions that feel like a direct attack on small businesses.”

In a statement, Gov. Polis’ spokesman Conor Cahill said, “The governor has great sympathy with every small business wanting to stay open and their employees, which is a big reason that Colorado was one of the first states to reopen and continues to avoid a lockdown like neighboring states have.”

“It’s also why he called for a special session to provide tax relief and waiver of fees for Colorado’s restaurants and bars,” he went on. “The hard truth is that this is the worst point of the pandemic our nation has faced yet…”

“Bars and restaurants are not the main source of this spread,” Harrington stated. “But they are … the brunt of this impact.”

She stressed that increased restrictions on bars and restaurants are “not a logical way to go about this.”

“We need to have a conversation on how we can better come up with policies that fit everybody,” Harrington said.

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