Saunders Farm fined $ 3,500 for breaking COVID-19 rules and making Frightfest a driving experience

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OTTAWA – Saunders Farm has turned its popular ‘Frightfest’ into a drive-thru experience, after receiving more than $ 3,500 in fines for violating COVID-19 collection restrictions. The West Farm announced Thursday that Ottawa’s regulation and regulatory services are considering the “Frightfest” Halloween attraction to be a rally, meaning no more than 25 guests are allowed on the beach at a time. 100 acre farm.

“As a daytime pumpkin farm, we aren’t limited to collecting rules. But, as Frightfest at night, we’re limited to collection rules and that’s where the confusion gets, “Saunders Farm owner Mark Saunders said in an interview with Newstalk 580 CFRA” Ottawa Now ”with Kristy Cameron.

“So at night we decided to fully pivot and move on to a driving experience, which we have in our back pocket for several months and that was something that was considered this summer. ”

Saunders Farm launched its annual “Frightfest” on September 25th.

“Over the past week there have been a number of emails and started with a few fines from the town letting us know we are breaking assembly rules,” Saunders said Friday afternoon.

“We didn’t agree with this because we didn’t think our company, our farm as a place of business and essential business in Ontario, had to follow the assembly rules like other essential businesses. We had to follow the distancing rules, these are two different distinctions in the very unclear laws that keep coming and changing every week for us. ”

Saunders says Saunders Farm has received four fines of $ 880 from Ottawa’s administrative and regulatory services for violating COVID-19 rules.

The first fine was issued on Friday October 16. Saunders told CFRA that the Ottawa settlement delivered three tickets Oct.21 for last Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening, saying the settlement visited the farm under cover and saw more than 25 people on the farm.

“The fines were for having more than 25 people on our 100-acre property,” Saunders said.

“It wasn’t clear if this was said on our haunted haywalks or in two of our areas that don’t have meeting restrictions – our patio at our restaurant and our farm market. . The courts are not yet open. ”

The owner of Saunders Farm has said he will fight the fines, adding that Ottawa’s bylaw and regulatory services threatened “much larger” fines if they reopened Frightfest unchanged.

COVID-19 restrictions limit gatherings to 25 people in outdoor locations.

“There is nothing specific about farms in any of the laws, and when the assembly laws refer to one location, it’s 25 people in one location and that location is undefined. So that could be downtown Bank Street in a parking lot. or on a 100-acre farm on the western edge of Ottawa, in the countryside, ”Saunders said.

“From our perspective, we were following the guidelines as a place of business. ”

When the town disagreed with Saunders Farm’s arguments about collecting limits, Saunders said, “Basically telling us we could only have 25 people on the farm literally made us a pivot of 24. hours to drive-thru.

Saunders tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that he estimates that switching to a drive-thru experience will cost the farm “over $ 100,000.”

“In a year where we’ve lost 70% of our revenue, it’s pretty devastating, I would say, but I know a lot of other companies that are far, far worse off.

Ticket holders are encouraged to email Saunders Farm to confirm that they will participate in the driving experience. A car full of guests will be allowed to enjoy “Frightfest”.

Saunders Farm says any guest who does not wish to attend the drive-through experience can request a refund.

Frightfest is scheduled to run until November 1.

Daytime operations of the Saunders Farm will continue as planned, with some agricultural modifications.

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