A preliminary injunction requiring CJ’s Diner to comply with all current public health orders in place for restaurants in La Plata County, including a ban on in-person dining, was issued Wednesday.
CJ’s Diner did not object to the issuance of the preliminary injunction, and 6th Judicial District Judge William Herringer asked attorneys to work jointly on a case management schedule that would allow CJ’s Diner to receive timely hearings as it seeks to prove a ban on in-person dining exceeds the state’s legal authority.
“Obviously, it does the defendant no good if the preliminary injunction remains in place, and the case is not brought to a resolution until the public emergency is lifted,” Herringer told the lawyers. “We don’t want to be on the standard schedule with a normal civil case, so just please, everybody, keep that in mind.”
The preliminary injunction will be in place until La Plata County moves out of Level Red restrictions down to less restrictive public health measures.
A news release issued Wednesday by Jerry Martinez, owner of CJ’s Diner, said, “The local restrictions are arbitrarily being applied to certain sectors, leaving affected business owners, employees and families without a way to earn (a) living.”
CJ’s Diner attorney Marian Tone told Judge Herringer the restaurant would abide by all Level Red restrictions applicable as it pursues all legal avenues seeking prompt relief from Level Red restrictions.
The restaurant’s news release said, “We are protesting the recent SJBPH order that shut down all indoor dining because of the damage it is doing to our business and community and because we do not believe it is constitutional or legal.”
Michael Goldberg, attorney for San Juan Basin Public Health, said trials are taking longer to set up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The judge said, let’s do what we can to see if we can expedite this work,” he said. “So I don’t know what the judge is thinking about. But maybe he wants to set this in three or four months for a trial.”
La Plata County moved to its Level Red public health order Nov. 20 after a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases. The Level Red designation limits restaurants to offering only takeout, curbside and delivery services, as well as outdoor dining.
On Dec. 1, CJ’s Diner was issued a cease-and-desist order, but the restaurant continued with in-person dining.
On Friday, CJ’s was issued a temporary restraining order, but it opened again Saturday. It wasn’t until Sunday that Martinez said he would comply with the judge’s order.
“We believe that the health department’s regulations are not right or fair,” Martinez told The Durango Herald on Sunday. “But (Saturday) when I was served the papers by the (La Plata County Sheriff’s Office), and it had a judge’s signature on it, at this point, we’re going to respect that.”
CJ’s Diner is now offering takeout and delivery as allowed under Level Red restrictions.
After the hearing, Martinez said, “This is really not about CJ’s because I believe that we’ll be able to survive this to a certain extent. But the reality of it is the majority of restaurants are not going to survive.”