COLORADO SPRINGS — After being open for only a couple of weeks, Santa's Workshop North Pole has closed its doors yet again.
The state approved a new variance that increases the capacity of outdoor and indoor venues, but amusement parks, such as Cave of the Winds and Santa's Workshop, were not included in the request approval.
Initially, the park was considered an "outdoor attraction," but the state reclassified them as an amusement park.
Tom Haggard who is the owner of Santa's Workshop says it's not fair they're not able to open while other places similar to theirs can operate.
"How exactly is our park different from the adventure parks and all the other various businesses that are allowed to open. The gyms, bars playgrounds, zoos, concerts, fair and rodeos," said Haggard. "The state needs to explain to us how mountain adventure parks have less touch points and co-mingling than our small family owned vintage park while our attendance is a fraction of theirs."
Haggard says the park submitted plans for safe operation 21 days ago. Since then they have been in contact with the local health department regarding capacity limitations and responsible practices to be in compliance.
"The standards that they are applying to amusement parks is not being applied to all of the other businesses in the state. The constant mingling of household contacts is occurring at zoos, Royal Gorge and other parks and not being applied the same way it's being applied to us," said Haggard.
Tuesday would have been Kyle Gerber's first time at Santa's Workshop. He says the state needs to stop changing the guidelines on reopening.
"These guys are trying their best to live within the guidelines and if the post keeps getting moved, its going hurt them because they are reopening and closing and reopening and closing. I don't know the financial effect it has on them but I'm sure it is not good," said Gerber.
Keith Siemsen, Environmental Health Division Director for El Paso County Health, says this new variance is a combination of two that were approved at the same time.
"It opened up a number of things within the county, expanded some of the things that were already in place within El Paso County," said Siemsen. "For example, gyms, outdoor facilities and outdoor pools, what the current public health order says is that the limit there would be 25 percent capacity or 50 people. But because of the variance approved, that has expanded to 50 percent occupancy or 175 people."
Siemsen says he's worked closely with Santa's Workshop through the variance process and preparing for the variance if it was approved.
"We had already developed a safety plan for their facility that was in line with the variance requested. So if it was approved, it would already be done," said Siemsen. "Now obviously the way it came back, we can't do that. We are seeking clarification from the state health department on what that actually means."
He says the primary goal is still the same, protect public health and encourage everyone in the community to continue following social distancing guidelines and wearing a mask.
"All of these things are beneficial and benefits the community because the better our health status is as a county, the more things that are allowed to operate at higher levels," said Siemsen.
Siemsen says he will continue to work with Santa's Workshop regarding reopening. The park has reached out to the state health department for clarification on amusement park and the steps needed to reopen.