Colorado Attorney General Forces Several Businesses To Comply With Coronavirus Stay-At-Home Order

Hobby Lobby Closed On Monaco In Denver
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
An empty, rain-soaked parking lot in front of Hobby Lobby on South Monaco in Denver midmorning Thursday, April 2, 2020. This particular store closed March 24, but some stores in the national chain until today had defied orders to close as part of government stay-at-home orders to combat the spread of coronavirus.

Colorado’s chief law enforcement officer is stepping in to ensure businesses obey statewide restrictions enacted to contain the spread of COVID-19.  

Hobby Lobby was forced to close all of its Colorado stores in response to a letter from the state’s attorney general dated April 1, 2020, which said the chain wasn’t complying with Gov. Jared Polis’ mandate that all non-essential businesses shut down temporarily.

Several other businesses also received letters from Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office this week for violating the governor’s directive, including a RE/MAX realtor in Lone Tree. The complaint that prompted Weiser’s letter alleges that a broker was forcing residents to leave their homes for public showings and open houses. Real estate marketing services are not essential under the governor’s order, according to the letter. Some real estate service providers, such as appraisers and title companies, are deemed essential.

Frank Zeig, the realtor targeted by Weiser’s letter, acknowledged receiving it, but said that he hasn’t had showings in three weeks.

“We stopped showing long before this,” Zeig said.

Meanwhile, two dental practices each received a warning as well. Alpha Dental Center in Aurora and Comfort Dental, which has multiple franchisees throughout the state, were cited for performing elective procedures that were prohibited under the governor’s March 25 executive order. There have been “credible and significantly alarming reports that several, and perhaps many, Comfort Dental franchises in Colorado” have been providing such procedures, the letter said, without specifying which locations.

In an emailed statement, Dr. Roy Theriot of Alpha Dental said his practice is currently in compliance with directives from the state.

“The earlier interpretation of essential: non-essential care created some confusion when the patients presented with dental disease or issues that were emergent,” the statement reads. “We have an obligation to our patients to alleviate pain and infection and damage that cannot be reversed.”

Representatives for Hobby Lobby and Comfort Dental couldn’t be reached. All the businesses who received letters from the attorney general have agreed to suspend operations that aren’t in compliance with the governor’s directive until the prohibitions are lifted, according to Lawrence Pacheco, a spokesperson for Weiser’s office. 

Residents are being urged to contact local health authorities first if they suspect a business is violating social distancing parameters, Pacheco said.

Businesses throughout the state are struggling with what it means to be essential as the stay-at-home order threatens to drag on indefinitely. An assortment of operators — from a car wash to a GameStop — have been cited for violating the mandate, according to the Denver city government.