Decision expected soon in Ohio water park’s lawsuit to reopen
SANDUSKY, Ohio (FOX19) - A decision could come as soon as Tuesday in a Sandusky water park’s lawsuit seeking to immediately reopen.
Kalahari Resorts & Conventions Water Park sued Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton and the Erie County General Health District last week, on Thursday, June 4.
They challenged Acton’s health order requiring them to stay closed through July 1 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kings Island in Mason, which is owned by Sandusky-based Cedar Fair, also sued Thursday, naming Acton and the Warren County Health District. On Friday morning, Cedar Fair, which also owns Cedar Point, joined Kings Island’s lawsuit.
Later that day, Gov. Mike DeWine said amusement and water parks, which have been closed all season due to coronavirus, can reopen in two weeks, on June 19.
Meanwhile, the lawsuits remain ongoing and Kalahari’s was assigned to Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Roger Binette.
He held an evidentiary hearing Monday afternoon and is expected to rule at any time if the water park will receive a temporary restraining order against Acton’s current health order keeping them closed.
If the TPO is granted, the water park could immediately reopen.
The lawsuit also asks the judge to rule that Acton doesn’t have the power to shut them down in the future.
It also alleges Acton’s order has singled out amusement and water parks while other businesses were permitted to operate.
The judge demanded all counsel attend Monday’s hearing in person.
“Failure to appear may result in Court sanctions being imposed, including but not limited to, contempt actions," the court record states.
All attorneys were present, including Chris Finney of Cincinnati for the water park, and attorneys for the Ohio Department of Health from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Meanwhile, in Warren County on Monday, Common Pleas Court Judge Donald Oda denied a TPO request in Kings Island and Cedar Fair’s lawsuit, court records show, but set a June 17 evidentiary hearing in the rest of the lawsuit.
The attorneys representing Kings Island, Cedar Point, and Kalahari, including Finney, recently successfully sued on behalf of gyms and fitness clubs to reopen.
A Lake County judge issued a preliminary injunction against Acton and the Lake County General Health District that says they violated the constitutional rights of Ohioans by forcing gyms to stay closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
A new lawsuit was filed Monday against Acton related to her COVID-19 restrictions on businesses, from a group of northeastern Ohio restaurants.
The lawsuit claims regulations are vague and penalties weren’t legislated by Ohio’s General Assembly.
Kalahari’s resorts are America’s largest indoor water parks with locations in Ohio and other states, according to the lawsuit.
Its Sandusky location has more 850 hotel rooms and a 225,000-square-foot water park, among dozens of other amenities, the suit states.
“It directly employs hundreds of Ohioans and indirectly supports local businesses employing hundreds more,” the news release reads.
Kalahari will partially reopen to guests on Friday, June 12, with a full reopening on June 19, the resort said in a news release Friday.
While the waterparks remain closed until June 19, admission to Kalahari’s outdoor pools and the Safari Animal Park will be included with overnight stays prior to that date.
A list of virus precautions is available on their website. Those include masks for workers, but guests are not required to wear them.
“The CDC has advised masks should not be worn in water because they can be difficult to breathe through. As a result, masks are prohibited when you are in the water,” the news release states.
“It is important to reopen the resort as soon as possible to offer families a safe place to come together for summer fun,” said Travis Nelson, spokesperson, Kalahari Resorts and Conventions. “We’re excited to get our associates back to work and restart Ohio’s tourism economy.”
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