Fearing “irreparable harm,” Tooele County was successful at getting a court to block a concert and business rally planned for May 30 at a private venue in unincorporated Tooele County.
With their event essentially cancelled by the judge, the sponsors of the event canceled the concert, but held a business rally at Tooele County’s Benson Grist Mill on Saturday evening.
Utah Business Revival announced last week that their May 30 event featuring country music singer Collin Raye would be relocated to the Amphitheatre at Studio Ranch up Box Elder Canyon in Tooele County near Grantsville.
The concert was originally scheduled for a park in Kaysville City with the support of the city’s mayor, but some members of the Kaysville City Council expressed concerns that the concert would violate state health guidelines for mass gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic recovery.
The Tooele County Commission had concerns that the concert relocation had been announced without proper permits being issued for the event. They requested that the County Attorney file an application for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop the event.
Following a hearing on May 29, 3rd District Court Judge Dianna Gibson granted the County’s motion for a temporary restraining order.
“The Court finds that there is a substantial likelihood that Tooele County would prevail on the case,” said Gibson, as she read her ruling on the record. “The Court finds that the defendant has failed to comply with proper permits for a temporary mass gathering.”
Additionally, Gibson said she found that Tooele County would suffer irreparable harm without the court order, the potential harm to the County by the event outweighed any harm to the event’s sponsors caused by the injunction, and that the injunction would not be adverse to the public interest.
In the application for the temporary restraining order filed with the court by County Attorney Scott Broadhead, Broadhead wrote, “Plaintiff merely seeks to enforce established state and county law.”
Broadhead argued in the application that the county would suffer irreparable harm by the violation of the governor’s executive order and the county’s public health order because the “event is a threat to the public health due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Broadhead also claimed that without the required temporary mass gathering permit the health and safety of the gathering could not be ensured and the County could be subject to liability for failure to enforce laws, orders, and regulations.
The attorney for the event argued that the County had presented no evidence connecting the event with irreparable harm, but merely cited the existence of COVID-19 as a reason for needing a restraining order.
Even with conceding that the event would not be in compliance with the governor’s executive order or the county’s health order, the event’s attorney argued that the rights of the people to peaceably assemble as guaranteed by the state and U.S. constitutions were at issue.
“People do not need heavy-handed government authorities to dictate all aspects of their lives. People should be allowed to exercise their rights to freedom, assembly, speech, and outdoor recreation,” said the event’s attorney in his memorandum of opposition to the temporary restraining order order.
With the judge ruling against the event, the event organizers canceled the scheduled concert, but announced on social media that they would gather at the Benson Gristmill with food trucks and business booths on Saturday evening for a rally.
The Saturday impromptu gathering brought in an estimated crowd well under the 1,000 threshold that would have triggered the requirement for a temporary mass gathering permit.
The event included various speakers and around 30 vendor booths.
Eric Moutsos, with Utah Business Revival, spoke at the rally.
“Tonight is not about Tooele County,” he said. “It is about America and our freedoms.”
One of the vendors was Z’s Hot Sauce from Ogden, a home-based business owned by James McBeth.
McBeth said he relies on farmers markets to market and sell his product. Those markets have been closed due to COVID-19, according to McBeth.
“What I am making at this event will pay my rent tomorrow and help feed my three kids,” he said.
Another vendor at Saturday night’s rally was VeloWafel, purveyor of fine handcrafted Belgium Liege waffles, owned by Doug and Kristen Openshaw of Taylorsville.
They sell their product at farmers markets, sporting events, and festivals — most of which have been canceled due to COVID-19, the Openshaws said.
Doug Openshaw said this was the second Utah Business Revival where they have sold their product.
“We’ve done very well,” he said.
Kristen Openshaw said participating in the rallies has not only brought a much needed financial benefit, but also a mental benefit as well.
“It’s great to be out and mingling people,” she said. “It helps to see light at the end of the tunnel.”