CJ’s Diner in Durango, a lightning rod during COVID-19 restrictions, is for sale – The Durango Herald

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Jerry and Carrie Martinez are leaving the restaurant after more than two decades

Jerry and Carrie Martinez put CJ’s Diner up for sale after their lawsuit against the state and San Juan Basin Public Health was dismissed in February 2022. Jerry Martinez tied the sale in part to battles the restaurant has had on pandemic precautions over the past year. and half. “I feel like the court case has really gotten us to this point. Why should I fight to be able to work? I’m tired like this and you add one thing. And we spent all that money,” Martinez said. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

After a long legal battle with the state and San Juan Basin Public Health, Jerry and Carrie Martinez walk away from CJ’s Diner.

The co-owners have put the restaurant at 810 E. College Drive up for sale as they seek to exit their business after more than two decades. The Martinezes made the decision after 6th Judicial District Judge William Herringer dismissed their lawsuit against Governor Jared Polis, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and San Basin Public Health. John.

The future of CJ’s Diner is unclear as the Martinezes await offers for the restaurant.

“I feel like the trial really got us to this point,” Jerry Martinez said. “Why should I fight to be able to work? I’m tired like that and you add one thing. And we spent all that money.

Judge Herringer issued his decision on Feb. 25, and the Martinezes put CJ’s Diner up for sale the next day, Martinez said.

CREXI, a commercial real estate website, lists the 2,000 square foot restaurant at an asking price of $350,000, and the sale includes furniture and much of the kitchen equipment. The property is listed with Coldwell Banker Distinctive Properties.

So far, four potential buyers have looked at the restaurant, but no one has submitted an offer. Some of the potential buyers have expressed interest in pursuing CJ’s Diner while others are interested in the property for their own businesses, Martinez said.

“It’s been a great business for us for 22 years. We are so involved in the community and (with) what we represent with the CJs, there will be a lot of people who will be affected by it,” he said.

The sale of CJ’s Diner ends a nearly year-and-a-half-long legal saga driven by COVID-19 pandemic precautions.

Martinez and CJ’s Diner defied local and state health orders in late 2020, opting to stay open for in-person dining amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

At the time, Martinez said the restaurant remained open to employ staff members and maintain business. He said another in-person dining shutdown would force CJ’s Diner to close.

However, the Martinezes were sued by SJBPH, which filed a cease and desist order against the restaurant on December 1, 2020. After refusing to close the doors of the restaurant, a district court judge ordered law enforcement to shut down the business. at meals in person.

The Martinezes then stopped eating indoors, but in January 2021 they filed a lawsuit against Polis, CDPHE and executive director Jill Hunsaker Ryan, and SJBPH and executive director Liane Jollon.

Jerry and Carrie Martinez have operated CJ’s Diner for 22 years and Jerry has worked in the restaurant industry around Durango for almost 50 years. CJ’s Diner has had four potential buyers, but no one has made an offer for the restaurant so far. Some of those considering ownership would be interested in continuing CJ’s Diner, while others are looking for a place for their business, Jerry Martinez said. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The Martinez attorneys challenged the constitutionality of the Colorado Disaster Emergency Act, which defines the power of the governor and state to respond to a disaster, and argued that executive and public health orders issued by Polis and SJBPH violated the Colorado Constitution.

In their lawsuit, the Martinezes sought attorneys’ fees and awards against the agencies and the three local and state leaders.

After more than a year, Herringer dismissed the Martinezes’ lawsuit in its entirety, saying their claims were either “moot,” meaning they were already resolved, or did not identify of legal claim on which the judge could decide.

Martinez, who has worked in the restaurant industry for nearly 50 years beginning with Lori’s Family Dining, where Durango Doughworks is now located, shared his frustration at the unceremonious end to the Martinezes lawsuit and now CJ’s Diner.

“I was really disappointed with how the judge handled it all,” Martinez said. “He sits on it for six months and right before he retires he just throws it away. It has a huge effect on (the sale of CJ’s Diner). It’s not the only reason, but it certainly played an influence on us saying, ‘I think we’re done’.

With the sale of CJ’s Diner, he said Durango will miss more than a two-decade-old popular restaurant.

“You can go get a burger anywhere,” he said. “We are more than a restaurant. We know when people die of cancer, when they go through hardships with their families. … Our customers have been loyal to us for all these years.

In addition to CJ’s Diner, Martinez also walked away from the four community boards he served on, including the Hundred Club of Durango, where he was involved for years and served as president.

He said he wasn’t sure what was next for him. Without immediate plans, there is a chance he will leave Durango.

“It’s my 49th year doing it and I’m just a little tired,” he said, noting that the entire pandemic has taken its toll.

For Martinez, the end of two decades of CJ’s Diner was in sight, but the past year and a half has accelerated that process and made it a tough finale.

“I’m quite frustrated. And when you get frustrated, I think you rush your schedule,” he said. “That’s the hard part that people don’t understand about this court case. It hasn’t been easy, and for it to be handled the way it was, I feel spat on.

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