A businessman's slow burn over shutdown order

Parker's Slo-Burn Cigars at forefront of debate on closures of businesses

Nick Puckett
npuckett@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/21/20

Each day since about the start of April, Lyle Tate woke up worried if it would be the day he would show up to work to find padlocks on the front doors of his Parker business, Slo-Burn Cigars and …

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A businessman's slow burn over shutdown order

Parker's Slo-Burn Cigars at forefront of debate on closures of businesses

Posted

Each day since about the start of April, Lyle Tate woke up worried if it would be the day he would show up to work to find padlocks on the front doors of his Parker business, Slo-Burn Cigars and Lounge.

“It's stressful. I've got a wife and four kids and it's always that kind of cloud that's like, 'Am I going to have a business tomorrow?'” Tate said recently. But he sounded a defiant tone: "Until they show up and drag me out of here in handcuffs, I'm not going to close my business.”

Then, on April 20, Slo-Burn finally, partially, shut down after the Tri-County Health Department gave the business its final notice to stop allowing people inside the store. The shop was deemed a nonessential business by the agency. The store is limited to take-out and local delivery service. 

Tri-County Health Department, representing Douglas, Arapahoe and Adams counties, has been tasked with enforcement of businesses violating the statewide stay-at-home order, which requires nonessential businesses to be closed until at least April 26.

On April 20, Gov. Jared Polis signaled that he plans to ease his business shutdown order starting April 27, moving toward allowing businesses to offer curbside pickup of their products. (Tate said he had offer to limit his business to curbside pick-up and local delivery weeks ago in lieu of closing.)

But for now, Slo-Burn is shuttered.

Previously, the Tri-County Health Department had posted closure notices on Slo-Burn's front door. Tate defied the order to close for weeks, saying it was a step too far.

Tate said he has dropped plans to pursue legal action against the state over its shutdown policies, and had raised $1,200 for legal fees via his GoFundMe page. Instead, the money was donated to a charity, he said.

Tate felt the rules applying to businesses like his were unfair once the state deemed liquor stores, cannabis dispensaries and head shops could remain open, but his premium cigar shop had to close.

“The government doesn't have the right to tell us what we can and can't do without giving us a voice or a say, and that's exactly what's happening,” Tate said.

'It's terrifying'

Slo-Burn Cigars and Lounge is tucked in one corner of the U-shaped Parker Plaza strip mall just off Parker Road. Owned by Tate, a Marine Corps veteran and father who lives in Parker, the shop received a swell of support as word spread of Tate's open defiance of the closure order.

While he was still open, Tate said he heeded the social-distancing advice of health experts.

The couch in the Slo-Burn lobby had blue X's taped across the cushions, indicating that customers should not sit there per social-distancing guidelines. A customer could browse the store, look through the humidor and lounge for a spell with a cigar in the lobby.

Tate participated in the April 19 demonstration at the state Capitol in Denver protesting the forced closure of nonessential businesses. The protest drew mixed support from members of the Libertarian Party and backers of President Donald Trump as well as small business owners. Near the Capitol, freelance photojournalist Alyson McClaran took pictures of a few counter-protesters dressed in medical garb and masks, confronting anti-shutdown protesters.

“It's not that I don't care about this epidemic because it's a serious issue, but I've done everything they've asked me to do,” Tate said before the final shutdown order. “The government doesn't have the right to just blanket shut down businesses.”

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