Larimer Health Director Tom Gonzales talks about why a stay-at-home order was needed to help fight coronavirus Fort Collins Coloradoan
A Fort Collins smoke shop that defied public health orders to close because of the coronavirus pandemic was shut down by police and its owner arrested Friday.
District Court Judge Daniel McDonald ordered One Love, 700 S. College Ave., Unit B, to close immediately and authorized law enforcement to use force if necessary to make sure the store and its owner, Jonah Ricke, ceased operations.
The closure ordered was served by Larimer County sheriff’s deputies on Friday afternoon. Fort Collins police assisted in serving the closure order.
The One Love store in Loveland, 2818 W. Eisenhower Blvd. was shut down at the same time. Store employees were compliant and cooperative, according to a sheriff’s office press release.
Ricke was told about the closures over the phone. He went to the Loveland location and refused to obey orders from law enforcement officers to not enter the store.
Ricke, 32, was arrested and booked into county jail on suspicion of unlawful acts under public health law, obstructing government operations and resisting arrest. All are misdemeanor charges. No bond was set as of 5 p.m. Friday.
A temporary restraining order was issued April 3 against Ricke and One Love ordering the store closed and a notice was posted on its door. But the notice from a county health department inspector was torn down and the shop continued operating.
Background:Smoke shop defies closure orders
During an interview Monday, Ricke told the Coloradoan he disagreed with the health department’s assessment of his business.
He said the store sells many products handled by other retail businesses that were allowed to stay open under state and county closure orders, including food, bottled water, paper products and cleaning materials.
The business is listed as a tobacconist on the county’s tax records. Ricke argued the shop should be considered a convenience store.
“We’re the counter-culture version of a Walmart,” he said.
In a court filing, the County Attorney’s Office said public health orders issued by the state of Colorado do not allow a store that doesn’t normally sell food to start selling it and claim to be a grocery store and an essential business.
The best way to slow the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 is through physical distancing, the county argued. By ignoring orders to close, One Love posed a threat to public health.
“Simply put, defendants have decided they are different than every other citizen of Larimer County who has been financially, medically and emotionally impacted, and despite everyone else’s suffering and efforts to combat this virus, defendants believe they may continue to engage in behavior that puts everyone else at immediate and possibly fatal risk,” the county argued.
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