SCOTT COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — The owners of a Scott County orchard have teamed up with Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles to sue Governor Andy Beshear. They argue that the orders set in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus are selective and hurting some businesses.
Jenny Evans, co-owner and manager of Evans Orchard and Cider Mill, says on June 12th, she submitted a proposal to the health department laying out the farm's new safety guidelines; like requiring customers to wear masks, cleaning more frequently and reducing capacity.
But health officials denied the proposal. "We proposed a 1% capacity, which would be about 100 people. That's following indoor facility rules and even indoor gyms can have a family per 6 square feet. And we can't even have that. We can only have 10 people," Evans said.
Evans says because the proposal was denied, in revenue loss, the play area is down 93% and the event venue is down 100%. "Last year I had 21 events, bringing in $125,000 total. This year I had 20 events scheduled and 0 of them have occurred so far," Evans said.
The farm co-owner says she has tried to contact the health department for more clarity, even contacting the Governor's office with no response. Despite other outdoor attractions being able to re-open as of June 8th, Evans Orchard doesn't fall under that category, so they filed a lawsuit trying to get answers.
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles has joined the lawsuit, arguing orders put in place Governor Andy Beshear have have burdened small businesses through their selective enforcement. "Right now, outdoor restaurants can hold more than 50 people, this regulatory mayhem has caused confusion for local health departments and have treated businesses and groups in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in an unequal manner," Commissioner Quarles said.
Commissioner Quarles says the lawsuit isn't about challenging CDC guidelines, but the process.
"Common sense would tell you, there is a way to have more than 10 kids, or 50 kids, or 100 kids to stay 6 feet apart in that area. Common sense would tell you that if thousands of people can gather to rightfully exercise their constitutional right to protest, there's no reason why families can't enjoy outside attractions as well," Commissioner Quarles said.
Commissioner Quarles and Evans held a press conference Monday morning, announcing the lawsuit. Governor Andy Beshear's office sent LEX18 this statement in response:
"At a time when states to our south are reporting over 8,000 new COVID-19 cases each day, the parties bringing this lawsuit want to eliminate the public health guidance and requirements that are keeping Kentuckians safe. All businesses have to follow the same rules and guidance for outdoor weddings and other activities. We are confident in the legality of these rules, and have identified numerous legal issues with the suit, including that it was filed in the wrong place. If the parties here won and the virus spread because the facility was not following proper guidance, it could threaten the reopening of our economy and public schools."