DENVER — Lindsey Cardiff thought her sports bar, W.T. Shorty's, was in compliance with all COVID-19 regulations, until an inspector from Denver's Department of Public Health and Environment showed up Saturday night.
"She came in and said she got a report we were doing indoor dining," Cardiff said.
But there were no customers inside. Cardiff said they were all outside on the covered patio under the heaters.
She said the inspector told co-owner Joe Conway they didn't have proper ventilation, and made him move the customers out to the edge of the patio near the uncovered portion.
"All of a sudden there was snow blowing into their faces and they were like what is wrong with you," Conway told Denver7.
Cardiff admits they initially had the flaps closed to keep the snow out. She said the inspector could have just come in and told them to open a few flaps.
"She told us we could not have any dining on this upper, heated patio. Everybody needed to be down in the lower (uncovered) patio because there wasn't proper ventilation, even if we opened everything up."
With snow continuing to fall, Cardiff made the difficult decision to stay closed on Sunday, while awaiting clarification of the rules.
She took a financial hit.
"On a normal Bronco Sunday we have a full restaurant. We're rocking and rolling. We're having fun," she said.
Even during the COVID pandemic, Sundays are one of the busier days of the week.
Cardiff has owned W.T. Shorty's Sports Bar for ten years. She said it's been in her family for 23 years.
"I grew up here," she said. "My children grew up here. It's not just our job for us. We've been here forever and it's our livelihood. It's part of the family."
Cardiff told Denver7, "We thought we were one of the lucky ones, because we had a nice big patio."
Now, she's beginning to wonder if that's the case.
"I'm not going to buck the system because I know they have all the power. I am trying to follow the rules. I didn't have one customer in my bar at 7:30 on a Saturday night. We're a Sports Bar. We're closed on a Bronco Sunday. That's our bread and butter. It's sickening and we're doing the best we can and putting people out here, (on the patio,)" she said.
Cardiff added that the inspector told them they can't use the covered portion of the patio under Code Red rules, because the openings for ventilation are adjacent to each other, not opposite.
"We show up every morning at 6:30 a.m. and turn these heaters on so our customers can come sit out in the cold and eat breakfast," she said.
"She doesn't like our ventilation. So teach us. Tell me what to do. Don't say your two walls are conjoined, so you can't have people here. I will knock that wall down if I have to. Just tell me what to do," she said.
Cardiff said she wants health officials to be more flexible with the rules, and with people's livelihoods, and she'd like them to be more clear about what the rules are.
She said Conway gave the inspector a business card and asked her to email him a copy of the guidelines, and that the inspector told him to email her first, because she was about to go on vacation and might lose the business card.
She said he sent her an email, but still hasn't heard back.
Denver7 reached out to the Denver Dept. of Public Health & Environment.