The health department has since apologized and is working to get all their inspectors on the same page.
At Reiver's Bar & Grille—similar to all restaurants across the state—servers are wearing masks, seating is limited, and sanitation is at its peak, as everyone works together to combat the virus at the forefront of everybody's mind. Even when we visited on a Monday afternoon, the popular restaurant—located on Denver's Gaylord Street—was about a third full, with signs marking every second table as "reserved."
Reiver's has been doing everything by the book. Even so, a visit from the sheriff's office and the Health Department on Saturday night was jarring to General Manager Steve Lemonides and his staff.
At 10:01 p.m., the restaurant had about 12 customers still lingering over their food and drinks, which wasn't anything unusual. Nothing had been ordered after "last call" at 10 p.m., and all tabs were closed. Nevertheless, the health inspector and sheriff entered the restaurant and ordered everyone to leave, saying they were in violation of the last call order. The manager on duty peeked out over the saloon doors to see who had entered the building. Since she had been eating in the back of house, her mask was pulled down below her chin. Consequently, she was given a $999 fine for not having her face covering in place.
OCN sat down with Lemonides on Monday afternoon to get the latest on the situation.
"The health department inspector was very adamant about the customers not being allowed to be in the bar past 10 o'clock and subsequently asked everybody to leave, which they all did," Lemonides told us. "The bartender didn't know what to do so got on the phone with me; I ended up speaking to the health department representative and he was pretty adamant about the fact that everybody had to be out by 10 p.m. I argued with him; I tried to email him a liquor enforcement updated order regarding this last call, and he didn't want to do anything with it.... They wouldn't even allow us to show off our POS that everyone had been closed out."
"The health inspector was just very adament about what he thought was the proper way to handle last call," he continued. "All in all, he and I had a good conversation regarding it, but we agreed to disagree at the end of it, based on how we interpret the order."
As it turns out, a few more health department representatives dropped by the restaurant on Sunday afternoon to check the spacing and placement of the safety signage—a separate issue altogether. When Lemonides jokingly mentioned the Saturday night incident and the fact that the "ink isn't even dry," the inspectors didn't know what he was talking about. They were not aware of the previous evening's inspection.
Lemonides has been in touch with the health department multiple times in the last two days, expressing his frustration that the inspectors themselves are not on the same page regarding the enforcement of the last call order or any other newly-laid-out safety regulations. What flies with one inspector may not fly with another inspector, which is confusing, to say the least.
"Today I've had a number of phone calls from the health department, one of which being the inspector from Saturday night to apologize about the misinformation he was giving me," he said. "But higher up from that, we've had a few phone calls from upper management to apologize, and they're trying to get the situation handled so that everybody can be on the same page, I guess."
As far as the last call order itself, the Colorado Department of Revenue's BULLETIN 20-13 clearly states that patrons are allowed to purchase alcoholic beverages up until the cut-off and then consume them afterward.
Apparently, however, not all law enforcement or health department agents are clear on what is or isn't a violation.
In addition, Reiver's will handle the mask citation and fine on behalf of the manager on duty by transfering it into the restaurant's name.
"I think that my bartender did everything that she was supposed to do," Lemonides said. "I think that it was a little bit nitpicky how the citation was written and the reason it was written .... She wasn't present in front of customers; she wasn't serving anybody .... If it was a first offense, I truly believe it should have been a warning instead of a $999 ticket, especially when the health department themselves don't even speak the same language. Nobody's on the same page. So I think it's pretty bullyish to do something like that on the spot."
What do you think about the situation? Tell us in the comments!