Fundraiser keeps Golden eatery afloat

‘I’ve been a bit overwhelmed,’ JC’s owner said

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 11/25/20

Over the last nine years, the owners of JC’s Cafe in Golden have worked to create a greasy spoon that is known as much for supporting the community as tasty burgers and the colorful writing on the …

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Fundraiser keeps Golden eatery afloat

‘I’ve been a bit overwhelmed,’ JC’s owner said

Posted

Over the last nine years, the owners of JC’s Cafe in Golden have worked to create a greasy spoon that is known as much for supporting the community as tasty burgers and the colorful writing on the walls.

“In years past, we’ve done fundraisers for schools and donated the food and every dollar that they made went to them,” said Chris Ross, who owns the restaurant with her husband, John. “We’ve done that more times than I can count and we also help a lot of the homeless people and try to give them a decent meal here and there.”

But this year, Chris and her family found themselves in an unfamiliar position: they needed a little help of their own.

Like many restaurants, JC’s has struggled to make a profit in the best of times. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, made staying afloat seemingly impossible as business dropped off sharply and stayed down long after the small business loan the family received to cover their payroll ran out.

Chris and John soon fell behind on the restaurant’s bills and then, with the possibility of another stay-at-home order looming ever larger in recent weeks, began to seriously consider closing their beloved cafe.

But the couple’s daughter, Shannon Rucker, had other ideas. On Nov. 10, she launched a Facebook fundraiser called Help JC’s Café.

“I told my mom that JC’s is my pot of gold,” said Rucker. “And you have to protect your pot of gold.”

But even Rucker said she never imagined how the quickly the fundraiser would take off as it raised $5,700 from 60 donors over the course of the next week.

“I’ve been a bit overwhelmed myself because of the support we’ve gotten from my customers,” Chris said. “They’re like `you can’t go away because we need you here and you are part of our family.’”

Now, thanks to that outpouring of generosity, Chris and John are no longer planning to close JC’s next month. Instead, they’re going to use the money to pay off what bills they can and, with the restaurant also bringing in more business since the launch of the fundraiser, will try to continue making payments from there in hopes of riding out the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are $35,000 in the hole but we’ve got a lot of people saying just keep going and this will pass,” said John. “And I just say ‘I know it will but I hope it hurrys up.”

Shutdown devastating

But while the donations have left Chris feeling more optimistic about the future, she said last thing that her restaurant, and thousands like it, needed is another is another stay-at-home order.

“I did tell the Sheriff’s Office I will not close again,” Chris said just prior to the announcement that Jeffco restaurants would need to shut down dine-in service . “I refuse, I’ll take the fine, I’ll take jail because it is imperative that we stay open. And I said `if you come and chain the door, I’ll cut the bolt.’”

However, Chris and John have since decided to comply with the most recent Level Red order so they can continue offering take-out. Chris said that if they didn’t they could risk a total shutdown of the restaurant for 30 days.

“It’s futile to resist,” she said. “If you do they are just going to knock you down again so we figured it would be best to comply.”

And despite that latest challenge, John said he remains optimistic about the future.

“We’ve got the money we’re raising and while we are $35,000 in the hole we’ve got a lot of people saying just keep going and this will pass,” said John. “And I just say ‘I know it will but I hope it hurrys up.’”

Pandemic pushback

While the success of the fundraiser shows the strength of the support for JC’s, Chris and John’s willingness to speak their mind and push back on some of the rules and regulations the state has imposed in response to COVID-19 have also generated some public controversy.

When a post was made about the JC’s fundraiser in the 5,000-plus member Golden, Colorado Neighbors and Friends Facebook group, most of the comments expressed support for JC’s. However, a few mentioned employees not wearing masks and criticized the restaurant’s decision to place a Trump sign in the window prior to the election.

Chris said she didn’t make anybody wear a mask in the beginning of the pandemic and still questions the wisdom of the government requiring them and why COVID-19 seems to be worse than ever when masks have been required for months. However, after dealing with the health department, she now requires all employees to wear them and follow all other regulations.

“Now we all wear masks and wash our hands four million times a day and we sanitize every single thing,” she said. “Nothing stays on the table — nothing.”

As for the Trump sign?

“I had a couple of people tell me that they weren’t going to come anymore because we put the Trump sign in our window,” Chris said. “And I was like, you know, I cannot believe we live in a society where having an opinion makes you not want to come eat at my place.”

That reaction was particularly bothersome, Chris said, because she doesn’t care who anyone voted for and is supportive of all people’s freedom as an American to vote for whoever they want. But despite a few negative comments, Chris said she doesn’t worry the signs have had a negative effect on her business and is instead focusing on JC’s future after the positive outpouring of support it has received.

Thanksgiving event to continue

Chris and her family have a more immediate focus — their annual community Thanksgiving event.

For years, the Rosses have opened their doors on Thanksgiving to the homeless and anyone else who wants to come enjoy a turkey dinner. That tradition will continue this year, she said, even as COVID-19 circumstances have led the Rosses to take a different approach.

“I’m going to do basically the same thing this year,” she said. “I know some people are going to be scared and I’ve just said `if you want to come, I’ll give you a box to fill up and you can head home. But the offer is still good.’”

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