“We stand here heartbroken,” health department forces Santa’s Workshop to shut down

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CASCADE, Colo. — A press conference was held on Tuesday at Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole in Cascade after it was forced to shut down by the state health department.

“Today, we stand here, heartbroken. The idea of constant mingling of non-household contacts is occurring at Zoos, Royal Gorge, other parks, and not being applied the same way it’s being applied to us,” said Tom Haggard, owner of Santa’s Workshop.

The park opened for nine days, installing hand sanitation stations, blocked off seats on rides to promote 6 feet social distancing, and told FOX21 that they were cleaning the rides after every use while they were operating.

The El Paso County Health Department said on Monday night that the variance request sent out on Monday night does not include amusement parks.

Amusement parks, such as Cave of the Winds and Santa’s Workshop, are NOT included. We are seeking further clarification from CDPHE.

El Paso County Health Department

“How exactly is our park different from the adventure parks and all the other various businesses that are allowed to reopen? The gyms, bars, playgrounds, zoos, concerts, fairs, and rodeos? The state needs to explain to us how Mountain adventure parks have less touchpoints and co-mingling than our small family-owned vintage park while our attendance is a fraction of theirs,” said Haggard.

The 90 employees are now only being paid half of their salary for the next two weeks. Haggard says jobs might be lost if this drags out.

“I don’t think it’s fair for these folks, and I don’t think it’s fair for us either,” said Tom Haggard, owner of Santa’s Workshop.

Haggard says they are being denied the chance to survive, and there is no ability to appeal. He says they put their faith in the state and have been let down.

“The local health department has provided guidance and support to us, and yet they have no authority to help us, even though the state specifically already said that in order to operate, we need to work with our local health departments,” said Haggard.

He noted that the health department came to Santa’s Workshop and inspected the area, and they met all of the guidelines to open.

Now, Haggard says he just wants to have a conversation with the state health department.

FOX21 reached out to the state health department and received the following statement:

Typically local public health agencies issue enforcement actions, and we have not been in contact with Cave of the Winds or the North Pole. Amusement parks were closed in Colorado, starting with the Stay at Home order on March 26. The Safer at Home order, which is in effect now, extended those closures. El Paso County requested a variance that included opening amusement parks, but we did not grant that part of their request. With the prevalence of high touch surfaces such as park rides and the likelihood of mingling of non-household contacts, we are not currently approving any requests for amusement parks, so neither of these attractions should be open.

The relevant language in the order reads as follows:

The following places of public accommodation remain closed to ingress, egress, use, and occupancy by members of the public:

1. Establishments primarily based on smoking, such as cigar bars, hookah
bars, and cannabis social use licensees; and
2. Casinos, amusement parks, arcades, and the use of bounce houses and ball pits in any public or commercial venue.

Ian Dickson, CDPHE spokesperson

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