TRUMBULL TOWNSHIP — The Great Lakes Medieval Faire announced via its website that the opening weekend would be delayed on Friday night, after an Ashtabula County judge ruled against the organization in court.
A civil complaint was filed in Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court on Friday, seeking an order to stop the faire from opening. A letter from the faire’s attorneys is included in the complaint.
The letter, dated July 7, says that the Faire had received permission to open from the health department previously, then that permission was denied. It also states that the faire ownership intended to open as scheduled.
“The only reason we filed a suit was because it was our understanding that the Faire was going to open, despite those orders from the Ohio Department of Health, and despite [Health Commissioner Ray] Saporito’s order not to open from the Ashtabula County Department of Health,” said County Prosecutor Cecilia Cooper.
A countersuit was filed Friday by the company that operates the Medieval Faire, seeking a restraining order against the Ashtabula County Health Department and the Ohio Department of Health, according to court records.
The Medieval Faire’s countersuit claims that the Ohio Department of Health has “arbitrarily criminalized [the Medieval Faire’s] safe operations, while allowing similar businesses to open, without any process, venue, or judicial review to determine whether [the faire’s] business is, in fact, safe enough to warrant operation,” according to the civil complaint.
Common Pleas Judge Thomas Harris heard the case at 11 a.m. on Friday, according to court records.
Harris ruled in favor of the Ashtabula County Health Department, barring the faire from opening, according to the order. The order states that a potential death from COVID-19 constitutes irreparable harm, while the harm to the faire would not be irreparable, since it could open on other weekends.
The faire is prohibited from opening until a full hearing in the case, scheduled for 1 p.m. on July 29, or as long as the public health order issued by the state still prohibits its opening, according to the order. The faire could also open if the parties came to an agreement, Cooper said.
“I know that our local health department has tried very hard to work with local businesses to make sure that when possible, they reopened, and they reopened safely, and that when it was impossible, they remained closed, pursuant to the state director of health’s orders,” Cooper said.
“That’s all this is. ... That’s why the injunction was requested and why Mr. Saporito issued the local order closing the faire.”
Requests for comment to the Great Lakes Medieval Faire and its attorney were not returned.