Moffat County business owners excited to see no new health orders following retirement of state dial |

Moffat County business owners excited to see no new health orders following retirement of state dial

Commissioners and the Board of Public Health declined to reissue new health orders April 16 following the removal of state mandates

When Diana Knez, owner of the OP Bar and Grill was able to take the tape off of cordoned-off tables inside the popular eatery, a sense of happiness spread through her.

For the last year, Knez has watched COVID-19 restrictions cause damage to her business at 534 E. Victory Way in Craig, often forcing her to turn away paying customers despite having open tables throughout the restaurant and bar area.

On April 16 though, that all changed as Moffat County commissioners serving as the Board of Public Health in the county, declined to reissue new health orders following the removal of state mandates by Governor Jared Polis.

In response to Colorado’s changes to COVID-19 policy, mandates and public health orders, Moffat County commissioners issued the following guidance to county residents, business owners and visitors to the county Friday afternoon:

  • Countywide mask mandate: Moffat County has no local mandates in place at this time.
  • Countywide capacity restrictions: Moffat County has no local capacity restrictions in place at this time.
  • Countywide COVID-19 reporting and information: Moffat County Public Health will continue to monitor, report, and update on vaccinations through the county website.

“The worst part was having open tables and telling people we couldn’t seat them,” Knez said. “So when we were able to take that tape off the tables and fully open, I was just so happy.”

Though places such as schools, healthcare facilities, assisted living facilities and more still have mask mandates and other restrictions in place, the Board of Public Health cited low case numbers in Moffat County and emphasized personal responsibilities ahead of the April 16 decision.

“The work of county government remains as it has been from the beginning: to monitor the situation regularly; to provide resources to those front-line entities engaged in responding to and reducing the spread of the virus; to offer guidance as needed to those who request it; and to equip residents and businesses with information to make the best decisions for themselves, their families, their businesses and their communities,” commissioners said in a statement.

Previously, the standing health orders in Moffat County had expired on Jan. 12 when Commissioners Melody Villard and Tony Bohrer were sworn in.

In an interview with the Craig Press, Villard cited those expired health orders, stating that with no health orders in place, the decision was easier to not reissue any following the removal of the state’s standing orders.

“Coming in in January, we were happy to see those orders expired,” Villard said. “All three of us are leaning heavily on personal responsibility. Not one of us thinks there isn’t a threat out there, but we don’t think it’s our role as government to shut things down and to keep things shut down.”

While there is elation from local business owners with the state restrictions being lifted, Anna Lighthizer, the owner of the Sizzling Pickle at 351 Ranney St. says there’s still some slight hesitation from customers due to COVID-19 still hanging around.

“I think there’s that slight hesitation, COVID has been a scary thing,” Lighthizer said. “It’ s not cold feet, but there is a little bit of hesitation because we’ve been restricted so long. At the same time it’s good to see things lifted. People seem happier. People still need to be a little bit cautious, a little bit safe.”

One reason why Lighthizer feels relatively safe with the lifting of restrictions is due to her and 90% of her staff being vaccinated by Public Health. That vaccination number inside Sizzling Pickle has created what Lighthizer describes as a safe, comfortable environment for the entire staff.

“We need to get people vaccinated; it’s very important to keep pushing that,” she said. “We do feel safer with that; so many of us made the decision to get vaccinated.”

While some may question the decision by the Board of Public Health to not reissue health orders in Moffat County due to COVID-19 still spreading, Villard stated that the decision was not one made without Public Health’s thoughts.

“Our community cares; they take personal responsibility seriously,” Villard said. “The public health department has the abilities to change things quickly, should we need to adjust quickly. Things are no longer convoluted, in terms of what we can and can’t do now that it’s up to us at the local level. That one-size-fits-all stance did not fit us. For us to not have the state hoops to jump through that were restricted here but not fit our community, we’re excited about that.”

On Monday, Lighthitzer and her staff stopped wearing masks inside the restaurant, which created an adjustment period for a staff used to wearing a masks for over a year.

Despite the adjustment period, Lighthizer said it was nice to see everyone’s faces again and see smiles they hadn’t seen in some time.

“It’s amazing, but it’s weird how you almost feel like you’re breaking the law.” Lighthizer said. “It’s crazy, but it’s weird to see people’s faces. The staff is excited, our cook is excited not having to stand over a hot grill for 12 hours with a mask.

“It’s exciting, in a way, and scary in a way,” she added. “Are we going to open up, everybody mingle and get shut down again? But if we stay on top of reporting cases and the public knows how many cases, we’ll know how to adjust and take care of each other.”

With restrictions lifted and things thankfully open in the community once again, Lighthizer and Knez say they are looking forward to increased business and taking advantage of the nicer weather.

“I hope that we do see an increase in business; we’ve already started booking parties for the summer on the outdoor patio,” Knez said.

As for Lighthizer, she says she’s going to keep the outdoor tent for the summer, with plans to keep the Pickle Palace — created due to COVID-19 to increase space — around long term.

“Being able to have that additional enclosed space is good for us,” Lighthizer said. “We overflow into it on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. We do still have stuff spaced out inside though, so the Pickle Palace will stay for awhile.“

Managing Editor Joshua Carney can be reached at 970-875-1790 or

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