GET BREAKING NEWS IN YOUR BROWSER. CLICK HERE TO TURN ON NOTIFICATIONS.

X

Bartender Stephanie Feltz makes a margarita for a customer at The Lyons Den Restaurant and Taphouse in Lyons on Friday. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

The owners of a Lyons restaurant decided late last month that they would keep their business open fully, despite public health order restrictions to close indoor dining.

Husband and wife Randall and Denise Yarbrough opened The Lyons Den Restaurant & Taphouse, 160 E. Main St.,  about a year and a half ago. When Boulder County moved to Level Red restrictions on Nov. 20, restaurants went from 25% capacity or 50 people inside, to no indoor dining. The businesses were still permitted to operate using curbside pickup and offer outdoor dining, but Randall Yarbrough said it wasn’t enough for his restaurant to survive.

The Lyons Den Restaurant and Taphouse owner Randall Yarbrough talks with a customer in Lyons on Friday. (Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer)

“To comply for me would be to sit back and watch my business die. Or I fight for what we truly believe in,” he said. “We truly believe small businesses and restaurants are being targeted. Why are we the ones having to shut down? What about the big box stores?”

Yarbrough said he has had no coronavirus cases traced to his restaurant and that none of his employees have been sick with the virus. There hasn’t been an outbreak at The Lyons Den, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

But Chana Goussetis, Boulder County Public Health spokesperson, said that she couldn’t say “with confidence” whether or not there were or weren’t any coronavirus transmissions at the restaurant during indoor dining service operations. She said because of the number of new coronavirus cases each day, the county is not able to conduct comprehensive contact tracing and disease investigations.

Goussetis said Boulder County Public Health issued a warning of violation to the restaurant on Nov. 25.

The warning stated that the restaurant had violated numerous public health orders, including: failure to enforce the facial covering order; permitting dining and seating indoors while this activity is prohibited at Level Red; and serving food and drinks from the bar area while patrons are seated at the bar.

The warning ordered the restaurant to “immediately cease and desist from violating current public health and executive orders,” or face legal action to stop the violations.

“We just learned that they are continuing to operate and that the state is getting involved,” Goussetis said Friday, adding that she was not yet sure what action the state would take.

Yarbrough said he has downsized from 10 to seven employees. While Yarbrough said he and his employees wear masks, it’s optional for his customers to wear them.

“Quite frankly, it’s up to them whether they want to choose to wear one or not,” Yarbrough said.

Over the course of three days in late November, Yarbrough said, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office visited the restaurant and warned him that he needed to comply with public health orders. Eventually, Yarbrough said, he was issued a summons for violating the public health orders.

In a Nov. 23 letter addressed to Lyons Mayor Nicholas Angelo, the Board of Trustees and Town Administrator Victoria Simonsen, Boulder County Sheriff Sgt. Bill Crist recommended that The Lyons Den’s liquor and business licenses be revoked immediately.

Crist described being called to the business for complaints of public health order violations on Nov. 20, Nov. 21 and Nov. 22. The letter described speaking with Yarbrough on each of those occasions and asking for his compliance. The letter also confirms that Yarbrough was issued “a summons and complaint into the state court for the violations.”

During the Nov. 20 visit, Crist described observing “multiple people inside eating and drinking and playing pool. No one was social distancing or wearing face covers.”

“The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office takes these matters seriously,” the letter read. “Our continuing efforts to keep the citizens and visitors of Lyons safe and healthy is taking a major blow by allowing this type of behavior to exist. COVID-19 is extremely harmful, and it is critical that we do everything in our power to stop the spread of the virus.”

Lyons Board of Trustees on Monday will meet online and host a public hearing to discuss the possibility of a suspension or revocation of the Lyons Den’s liquor license, as well as the status of the restaurant’s business license. Yarbrough said his restaurant’s liquor license was temporarily suspended starting Nov. 23.

In response to a request for comment from the Times-Call, Angelo said that the issue is “a quasi-judicial matter,” therefore trustees couldn’t comment on the situation in advance of the meeting.

Simonsen added that “the state and Lyons are working collaboratively to investigate the situation.”

Former Lyons business owner Debbie Anderson started a Go Fund Me to support The Lyons Den. The fundraiser, called The Lyons Den Restaurant Stand for Freedom Fund, is seeking to raise $100,000. As of Friday afternoon, it had garnered $450. Yarbrough said any funds raised will cover costs of rent, legal fees and paying his employees.

Anderson, who lives in Lyons and is a friend of the Yarbroughs, said she understands the challenges Yarbrough is facing. She had to close her business, the Lyons Fork, a restaurant at 450 Main St., on July 18, when her restaurant couldn’t survive with restrictions in place.

“We could do patio service, but we were only doing 20% of the business we would normally see,” Anderson said. “I believe these shutdowns that are coming now are wrong, and they are going to kill a lot of businesses all over the country, let alone in Colorado.”

Anderson said she wanted to fight for local business owners like herself. With the Go Fund Me campaign, Anderson said she hopes enough money is raised to help Yarbrough’s business survive and continue to pay its employees.

Yarbrough said he’s written emails, letters and called Gov. Jared Polis’ office to share his business’ struggles — all of which he said have “fallen on deaf ears.”

Polis’ office released a statement Friday night in response to inquiries from the Times-Call.

“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,” the statement read. “It’s also why he called for a special session to provide tax relief and waiver of fees for Colorado’s restaurants and bars. The hard truth is that this is the worst point of the pandemic our nation has faced yet. As challenging as this moment is, a vaccine is on the horizon and there are brighter days ahead.”

On Monday, Yarbrough said, he plans to speak at the meeting and talk about his position for keeping the restaurant fully operational. People interested in listening in or speaking at the meeting can find out how to do that on the town’s website at  https://bit.ly/37uGdBq.

blog comments powered by Disqus