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Utah Business Revival Concert Halted By Judge But Organizer Says A Smaller Version Will Still Happen

Photo of protesters in Downtown Salt Lake City.
Emily Means
/
KUER
The Tooele concert was organized Utah Business Revival, by the same group behind a similar protest in Salt Lake City in April.

A controversial concert protesting social distancing measures was effectively shut down Friday after a Utah District Court judge issued an injunction against it being held.

Eric Moutsos, the event’s organizer, said the outdoor event will continue, but without the originally planned performance from country artist Collin Raye or booths set up by small businesses. 

In a Facebook post Saturday, he encouraged attendees to instead come to the Benson Grist Mill Museum in Toole County for a “free-speech, fundraising” event.

Similar to an earlier protest he helped organize in Salt Lake City in April, he asked those attending to bring food from a local restaurant. 

Moutsos said he was expecting around 5,000 people to attend the concert, which had been scheduled for the Amphitheater at Studio Ranch in Grantsville, a large outdoor space in a rural part of Tooele County. The venue owner, Jeff Manning, pulled out after the judge’s ruling Friday evening.

The event has faced several roadblocks since it was first announced earlier this month. Originally scheduled to take place in Kaysville where it was supported by Mayor Katie Witt, Moutsos was forced to find a new location after city councilmembers there voted against it

Earlier this week, the Tooele County Health Department issued a public health order against the event, stating it would violate both the county’s local emergency declaration and the governor’s executive order banning temporary mass gatherings. 

In her ruling Friday, Utah Third District Judge Dianna Gibson said the event posed an imminent health risk to public safety. She said while she recognized that both Moutsos and Manning had taken steps to keep attendees safe — such as providing hand-washing stations and encouraging social distancing — she said the organizers couldn’t provide adequate proof that “all public health risks had been considered.”

“I recognize that this is a hotly-contested issue,” she said. “There is a real risk this event could facilitate the uncontrolled spread of the COVID-19 virus to thousands of people.” 

Moutsos, who started the Facebook group called Utah Business Revival, has hosted three similar events, which he said have been aimed at promoting small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“I think the virus is real,” he said in a phone interview. “And if people [are high risk], they need to stay home and stay safe. And we’ll help them, but we can't help them without helping ourselves. When we've all lost our jobs, we can't help anyone.”

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