DENVER – Jefferson County Public Health on Thursday sued Bandimere Speedway over the “Stop the COVID Chaos” rally held on Tuesday, which saw thousands of people gather in the face of the state and local public health orders barring gatherings of that size.
It’s the second time in months the county health department has taken the race track to court after it held large public gatherings.
In July, a Jefferson County judge told Speedway representatives they must follow the public health orders after they held a large gathering over the July 4th holiday, though the judge declined to grant an injunction against Bandimere that had been sought by the county.
In a news release Thursday afternoon, the county health department said it had told Bandimere ahead of the latest event that it still had to adhere to the public health orders capping attendance at large events at 175 people and requiring that people stay six feet apart and wear face coverings – even outdoors – if they cannot keep proper distance.
“After Bandimere refused to comply with both county and state public health orders, JCPH decided it had no choice but to take legal action against Bandimere to protect the safety for all county residents and encourage behaviors that limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” the health department said in a release.
The lawsuit filed in Jefferson County District Court asks a judge to grant an injunction keeping Bandimere from hosting future events that violate the capacity limits, those that do not have written authorization, or those that violate the mask and social distancing requirements.
The suit says that while it filed pre-approved plans for some other upcoming events, it did not do so for Tuesday’s rally and does not believe the raceway will do so or adhere to the public health orders in the future.
“Although Bandimere has planned upcoming events based on pre-approved plans, the September 1 event confirms that Bandimere is capable of coordinating a large-scale event with little notice to the public or JCPH,” the lawsuit says.
“A preliminary injunction preventing Bandimere from holding additional events that violate the Public Health Orders would preserve the status quo of protecting those in Jefferson County from COVID-19 by limiting mass gatherings and spectator events that violate the terms of the Public Health Orders,” it goes on to stay.
Bandimere's attorney, Randy Corporon, returned a call and text message seeking comment by text Thursday evening, saying he had not seen the lawsuit. But just before 8:45 p.m., Denver7 learned the Bandimere family was filing a lawsuit of its own against Gov. Jared Polis, the CDPHE, the department's executive director, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, as well as Jefferson County Public Health and its executive director, Mark B. Johnson.
Corporon did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday as Denver7 tried to learn more information about the ramifications of Tuesday's event.
The health department reiterated what the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and other state officials have discussed in recent days about keeping the spread of COVID-19 down during the Labor Day weekend after Colorado saw a spike following the July 4th holiday, including the events at Bandimere.
Tuesday’s rally at the speedway was organized by a group of conservatives opposed to the state public health orders, including House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, who unsuccessfully petitioned to have the Colorado Supreme Court take up a case involving his protests of the orders. He and others have conflated protests for social justice with protests against public health orders due to the coronavirus.
"If they (county/state) come back and are very punitive on Bandimere for having what was a peaceful protest, yet there were vandals that were throwing Molotov cocktails that were totally let off the hook (during BLM protests)," Neville told Denver7 this week.
Last week, John Bandimere told Denver7 the state's COVID-19 restrictions are "excessive."
"We've negotiated, we've compromised," Bandimere said. "We've practically begged the Jefferson County Health Department to allow us to ... just run our business."
But the public health department said Thursday that the speedway’s continued hosting of large events was doing more harm than good.
“Events like the Sept. 1 rally at Bandimere Speedway put everyone at risk,” the JCPH said in Thursday’s release. “As a community, we must work together to minimize the health impacts of COVID-19 both on an individual and economic level, which we can all do by continuing to be vigilant about public health precautions.”
This is a developing news story and will be updated.