GRANTSVILLE — The Tooele County Health Department issued a public health notice of closure on Wednesday to the owner of an amphitheater slated to hold a large, free concert on Saturday, saying the event violates the state’s mass gatherings guidelines.
In response, the owner threatened a lawsuit against the county.
Jason Manning, who owns The Amphitheater at Studio Ranch, was given a notice of closure by the county stating the concert violates the temporary mass gathering code and poses “an imminent health hazard at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Manning told KSL.com he had no comment on whether the health order would impact his plans to hold the concert, but he did say, “Tooele County needs to expect a lawsuit very soon.”
The Tooele County Attorney's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Manning declined to elaborate on the potential lawsuit further.
While Tooele has transitioned into yellow, or the low-risk phase of the state’s Utah Leads Together plan, mass gatherings are still discouraged.
Manning said he expected 3,000 to 4,000 people to attend at the maximum, although the venue has the capacity to hold up to 10,000 people.
Failure to comply with the county’s order could result in criminal charges against Manning, health officials said in the order.
The concert, organized by Utah Business Revival and featuring country music star Collin Raye, first stirred controversy earlier this month when it was originally scheduled in Kaysville.
The group announced on May 21 the concert had been moved to Grantsville, saying there was a lack of support in Kaysville.
The concert is now scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m., and organizers said there will be free space available for up to 300 businesses to set up booths.
The event is aimed at highlighting small businesses and giving them “a safe, outdoor opportunity to provide for their families and pay their mortgages,” organizers said when the venue change was announced.
“This concert is all about bringing Utah businesses some relief," Manning said on Tuesday. "For it to be controversial, to me, is absolutely mind-blowing."
Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne told the Deseret News on Wednesday that 3rd District Judge Dianna Gibson granted the county a temporary restraining order against the amphitheater to restrict it from hosting the concert on that day. “As of last night, the organizer and owner said they were going to continue with the concert. We’ve had conversations and it was nice, but it became clear that they were going to proceed with it anyway,” Milne said.
In a video posted to Utah Business Revival's Facebook page, founder Eric Moutsos said the concert is still on.
“In light of all of that we are still a go,” he said. “We’re really excited about it.”
He also said masks are being donated and EMTs will be on site. “It’s gonna be really great,” he added. “So don’t be afraid … I believe that this about faith over fear.”
County officials emphasized they are concerned for the public and advised residents not to attend.
“We really are concerned with people’s health and safety,” Tooele County Health Department spokesperson Amy Bate told KSL.com, adding that organizers did not obtain a permit to hold the event.
Bate said organizers never filed a permit for the event, but even if they had it would have been declined for violating Gov. Gary Herbert’s mass gatherings guidelines, issued in the state’s plan for the yellow, low-risk phase.
Health concerns for concert guests go beyond the pandemic as well. Bate said the health department has no way of knowing if the proper facilities — such as restrooms, security, sanitation stations or parking — will be available since the event was not cleared with the county first.
Additionally, events of this size require a permit to be submitted at least 30 days prior to the date the event is planned for. The concert was only scheduled last week, so it’s last-minute, according to Bate.
However, Manning told KSL.com the concert will have the proper sanitization stations, restrooms, security and other facilities for attendees.
Social distancing guidelines will not be enforced at the event but are not discouraged, Manning added. Guests have also been asked to respect those choosing to participate in social distancing.
"If you're a small business owner, like myself, who is closed down for six weeks without (Paycheck Protection Program funds) ... it hurts," Manning said. "This is an event geared toward helping those people out."