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Dozens gather to support Divide restaurant that received Notice of Violation

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Posted at 6:27 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-15 11:09:02-04

DIVIDE — A Teller County business is getting major support after it was served papers for violating state health orders.

Dozens of people showed up at Russ' Place in Divide Thursday to get some lunch, but the gathering wasn't just about Russ'. A little before noon people started showing up to say they stand with Russ' Place and all businesses in Teller County and Colorado that still have not been allowed to fully reopen. It was a gathering that most people haven't seen or been a part of for months.

"I don't think there's anybody here I don't recognize," said co-owner Bob Kerr. "I think these are great guys. They'll stand behind me and I'd stand behind them."

He shared that people are outraged because of a violation notice served to his restaurant which led to the crowd showing up at his place on Thursday for a free lunch donated by fellow businesses.

"His business is his means of going through life...his liberty is to do that business," supporter Elijah Murphy said.

Sandy Boehr was also in the crowd. She said, "I did read what they gave to Russ' and it said in the very first paragraph that they were being selfish."

Kerr told News 5 that the restaurant was given the Notice of Violation by Teller County Public Health because it had a problem with people sitting outside on tables near the building and drinking beverages as they waited for their to-go orders. The letter the restaurant received also states that public health staff observed patrons eating and drinking inside the building. However, the restaurant says that hasn't happened.

"We're not being selfish for operating our own business and putting food onto our tables...he has to be able to make a living. All of Colorado has to be able to make a living without a lot of government restrictions," Boehr said.

Dana Dacus, another supporter, said, "We need to stand together as communities and do what's right for us economically."

Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell was also invited to the gathering and shared that he thinks it's important that people have the right to assemble.

"I think for us what we're trying to do is just let people know that we're still there for them, that we're not against them...I think county commissioners and the health departments in their local jurisdictions are trying to do what they believe is the best that they possibly can do to help them and unfortunately we're not opening up fast enough for everybody," he said.

As for Kerr, he says if the health department decides to shut him down: "It's my wife, my son, and myself, and we talked and said it's worth it."

Not only did people show up on Thursday, but some even gave donations in person or through a Go Fund Me page.

We did reach out to the Teller County administrator again on Thursday to find out what the next steps are for Russ' Place and are still waiting to hear from them.

Kerr shared that the state liquor board told him they are going to revoke his license. In the meantime, he says Russ' will continue to operate.