The City and County of Denver so far has issued five formal citations to four local businesses as recently as Monday as part of its enforcement of its COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, in place since last week.
The businesses include an arts & crafts retailer; a video-gaming outlet and a car wash, a city spokesman said Tuesday. It will be up to a judge to determine the specific penalty, which in theory could include a fine or even jail time, if the court decides.
Denver spokesman Alton Dillard also said that as of Sunday, enforcement teams from several agencies had issued 543 warnings that fell short of a citation and made 2,577 "contacts," in which city personnel explain the provisions of the stay-at-home order to members of the public.
Colorado's state government, meanwhile, is only at the stage of investigating complaints received from the general public via a newly designated email reporting system. State Attorney General's Office spokesman Lawrence Pacheco said the office has received 700 complaints through email@example.com but noted some of the reports "might be about the same business or individual, so one should not assume there are 700 individual possible violations."
Pacheco would not disclose any of the specific allegations or whom they were made against. He characterized those filing the complaints as, "Colorado residents who are concerned that certain businesses or individuals are violating the state public health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic."
"We cannot discuss details of the reports ... (i)nformation is investigative material and we do not confirm or deny investigations by the Attorney General’s Office," Pacheco wrote in an email.
Denver's Dillard released the following list of businesses the city has cited for alleged violations, for which the businesses now will have to answer in court:
- Hobby Lobby at 920 S. Monaco Parkway, on March 30.
- Appliance Factory Outlet, at 1045 Zuni St., on March 28 and 29.
- Car Wash USA Express at 603 Santa Fe Drive, on March 29.
- GameStop at 757 E. 20th Ave., on March 26.
The Appliance Factory Outlet location was cited twice, bringing the city's sweep to five citations in all so far.
Dillard included the enforcement officers' notations on those actions. Hobby Lobby representatives told officers, "...they were essential because they provided supplies to work from home businesses." Officers noted there were "multiple employees and customers inside" the Appliance Factory Outlet and that GameStop personnel, "claim they sell essential business supplies, such as mice and keyboards."
Attempts by Colorado Politics to reach representatives of the cited businesses were unsuccessful at press time.
Denver's roving enforcement squads include personnel from the city's Department of Public Health and Environment as well as the police and parks departments, among other agencies.
The amount of latitude that enforcement officers use in assessing whether to issue a citation depends on the situation, Dillard said, and provided a prepared statement from the city's health department:
" We focus on education, and we can and do issue warnings. However, we will go straight to a citation if the situation is egregious. A number of factors are taken into consideration in determining the approach used, including the public health significance, compliance history, and other factors."
The more than 500 warnings the city issued don't carry a penalty or court summons and can be delivered simply as a talking-to or in the form of a written "order to comply."