CHELAN — Slidewaters owners Robert and Burke Bordner have put their plans to open the popular water park in defiance of state orders on hold.
The Bordners wanted to open Slidewaters on Monday with safety precautions in place that they believe will keep employees and customers safe from the spread of COVID-19.
However, the threat of $10,000 a day fines from the state Department of Labor and Industries, the agency tasked with enforcing Gov. Jay Inslee’s SafeStart restrictions, caused them to remain closed.
“We have no operational plans right now but we continue to look for a path forward to get out from under the shutdown orders of the government,” Robert Bordner said Monday.
Some of the park was opened Saturday, like food, beverage and retail, but no water activities, he said.
Slidewaters, considered a non-essential business, would not be allowed to operate until Chelan County reaches Phase 3 in the governor’s current Safe Start plan. The county is in Phase 1.5.
“We just need some stronger leadership to guide us out of this,” Bordner said. “Until then, we’re all just going to continue hurting.”
The Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based nonprofit anti-regulatory group, on June 9 filed a 14-day temporary restraining order in Chelan County Superior Court on behalf of the Bordners that would prevent fines being imposed if the park opened as hoped. The case was moved to a federal court in Spokane. On Friday, the court denied the request.
“The order sought to enjoin the state (and the Department of Labor & Industries) from imposing penalties on businesses that violate what’s clearly an illegal power grab by the governor in the first place,” said Freedom Foundation attorney Sydney Phillips. “This is a defeat for common sense and the rights of independent entrepreneurs to earn a living.”
The reason for the denial, she said, was a mix of a question as to likelihood of success on the merits of the claims and the public’s interest.
“The public interest in mitigating and combating the significant danger posed by the spread of COVID-19 outweighs individuals business interests in continued operations,” the court stated.
Phillips said she intends to file an injunction that would allow the judge to hear the full briefing to consider all evidence. A specific timeline is not yet known.
Slidewaters’ opening day in a normal year is in late May. A press release earlier said the business planned to open June 15. The business typically employs 150 people between the ages of 14 and 25.
The park opened in 1983. The Bordners purchased it in 2008, added a 500-foot long Lazy River in 2012, among other features, and last year announced the addition of a surfing complex that they hoped to open this year.
A press release sent by the Bordners in early May said Lakeside Surf was stalled by COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“We are stuck until workers can travel from Germany to Chelan to complete their work. From the day they arrive in Chelan, we believe we are 7-10 days away from surfing!” Robert Bordner said.
Phillips said the hope now is to clarify the issues with the phased restart plans.
“What we’re saying is that Washington shouldn’t have one plan for both Chelan and Seattle. The two locations have literally nothing in common, and their respective responses need to be flexible, realistic and community-based,” she said. “The owners of Slidewaters have a vested interest in the health of its guests. The only ones more concerned are the guests themselves. Collectively, they should be the ones to decide what actions are appropriate.”