Jerry and Carrie Martinez walk away from the restaurant after more than two decades
After a lengthy legal battle with the state and the San Juan Basin Public Health, Jerry and Carrie Martinez step away from CJ’s Diner.
The co-owners have put the restaurant 810 E. College Drive up for sale as they appear to be leaving their business after more than two decades. The Martineze family made the decision following 6th Judicial District Judge William Herringer’s rejection of their lawsuit against Governor Jared Polis, the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment and the San Juan Basin Public Health.
The future of CJ’s Diner is unclear as the Martineze family awaits offers for the restaurant.
“I feel like the lawsuit really drove us to this point,” Jerry Martinez said. “Why should I struggle to be able to work? I’m tired as it is and you’re adding one more thing. And we spent all that money.”
Judge Herringer handed down his verdict on Feb. 25, and the Martineze family had CJ’s Diner for sale the next day, Martinez said.
CREXI, a commercial real estate website, shows the $ 350,000 dining room at $ 350,000, and sales include the furniture and much of the cooking equipment. The property is listed with Coldwell Banker Distinctive Properties.
So far, four potential buyers have looked at the restaurant, but no one has made an offer. Some of the potential buyers have expressed interest in continuing CJ’s Diner, while others are interested in the property for their own businesses, Martinez said.
“It’s been a big business for us for 22 years. We’re so involved in the community and (with) what we represent with CJs that there will be a lot of people who will be affected by it,” he said. .
The sale of CJ’s Diner completes a nearly one-and-a-half-year legal saga driven by COVID-19 pandemic measures.
Martinez and CJ’s Diner defied local and state health orders in late 2020 and chose to remain open to personal eating amid a wave of COVID-19 cases.
At the time, Martinez said the restaurant was kept open to hire employees and keep the business running. He said another shutdown of personal dining would force CJ’s Diner to go bankrupt.
The Martineze couple, however, were met with lawsuits from SJBPH, which filed a cease-and-desist order against the eatery on December 1, 2020. After refusing to close the restaurant’s doors, a district court judge ordered law enforcement to close the store. for personal dining.
The Martineze family then stopped indoor dining, but in January 2021 filed a lawsuit against Polis, CDPHE and CEO Jill Hunsaker Ryan and SJBPH and CEO Liane Jollon.
Lawyers for Martinezes questioned the constitutionality of the Colorado Disaster Emergency Act, which describes the authority of the governor and state to respond to a disaster, arguing that executive and public health orders issued by Polis and SJBPH violated the Colorado Constitution.
In their lawsuit, Martinezes sought attorneys’ fees and decisions against the agencies and the three local and state leaders.
After more than a year, Herringer dismissed Martinezes’ lawsuit in its entirety and found that their claims were either “disputed”, meaning that they had already been resolved or did not identify a legal claim on which the judge could rule.
Martinez, who has worked in the restaurant business for nearly 50 years, beginning with Lori’s Family Dining, where Durango Doughworks now sits, shared frustration over the unpretentious end to Martinezes’ lawsuit and now CJ’s Diner.
“I was really disappointed with how the referee handled it all,” Martinez said. “He sits on it for six months, and just before he retires, he just throws it out. It has a huge effect on (the sale of CJ’s Diner). That’s not the only reason, but it has certainly had an impact on us saying, ‘I think we’re done.’
With the sale of CJ’s Diner, he said Durango will miss more than one popular two-decade-old restaurant.
“You can take a hamburger anywhere,” he said. “We are more than a restaurant. We know when people die of cancer when they go through things with their family. … Our customers have been loyal to us all these years.”
In addition to CJ’s Diner, Martinez has also stepped down from the four community boards he sat on, including the Hundred Club of Durango, where he has been involved for years and served as president.
He said he is not sure what is next for him. Without any immediate plans, there’s a chance he’s leaving Durango.
“It’s my 49th year I’m doing it and I’m just a little tired,” he said, noting that the whole pandemic has taken a toll.
For Martinez, the end of two decades with CJ’s Diner was in sight, but the last year and a half has accelerated that process and made it a difficult finale.
“I’m pretty frustrated. And when you’re frustrated, I think you’re speeding up your schedule,” he said. This has not been easy, and in order for it to be handled as it was, I feel spit on. ”