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Chelan water park, Slidewaters
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Co-owner of Slidewaters plans to ‘do everything possible’ to reopen soon

(Photo courtesy of Slidewaters)

Slidewaters, a water park in the Lake Chelan area, is pushing back against the state of Washington and Gov. Inslee’s restrictions on businesses during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Co-owner Robert Bordner joined the Dori Monson Show to explain the ongoing legal battle.

“We’re just out there doing our best to fight for our right to operate our business,” he said. “We have a family-fun, friendly, safe place for people to come and enjoy, and we felt like Governor Inslee and L&I were infringing upon those rights.”

Slidewaters hit with $10,000 fine for opening outside Safe Start order

Slidewaters filed a lawsuit in June. They did not win the temporary restraining order hearing, and the suit was sent to federal court, Bordner said. Last week, the case was dismissed and sent back to Chelan County, which they appealed. Now, they’re waiting for the Ninth Circuit to hear the case.

Meanwhile, the summer months, particularly July and August, make up most of Slidewaters annual business.

“Standard operating season is Memorial Day to Labor Day. It’s about a 100 day season that we typically have, and then we do about 70% of that business in July and August,” Bordner said. “… Take a normal business and multiply it by three or four, that’s what the value of each day of business is for us. And each week can be 12 to 15% of our annual revenue in July and August. So losing July and August days is just detrimental to our ability to sustain and to set up a business for the long run.”

Robert and his cousin Burke have owned the park since 2008.

“I think any small business owner, they have chosen their path, they’ve taken what they do, and they have a reason behind it,” he said. “And Burke and I are no different. We chose this business. We wanted to do this because of the value that we saw that Slidewaters has offered to Washington residents for decades.”

Bordner sees Slidewaters as a business that brings families together.

“We’re just firm believers that the stronger the American family can be, the better that we can solve all the problems that are out there,” he said. “So we’re so excited to operate a place that brings families together and start setting up the young people for strength into their future because they have great relationships with their parents and with their siblings, and they enjoy each other together.”

Per the Governor’s Safe Start plan, however, water parks and similar businesses aren’t allowed to open until Phase 3. Officials have argued that if Slidewaters remains open, there could be an uncontrollable outbreak of COVID-19. Bordner says the reasoning is flawed and hypocritical.

Lawsuit argues Inslee is picking and choosing which rights to uphold

“Here in the Chelan Valley, … there’s four fantastic parks, main parks on the lake. [The parks] … are packed every day and on the weekends in particular, just over-packed, cars parked on the street just to get into these places. And they’re all operational. … These are government run parks, they’re doing nothing to slow these parks down, to separate them. They’re doing nothing. They have no COVID plan.”

Slidewaters was operating at 50% capacity and Bordner said he has a 30-page COVID plan.

“I have 40 employees working every day to help me implement [the plan] to keep the park safe, and I’m the problem,” he said. “So it’s just super hypocritical of the governor to say it’s OK for these government run parks to operate under standard procedure. But this private owned business can’t do it.”

Through Sunday, Slidewaters was operating at restricted capacity, but the park is closed as of Monday, July 20. Bordner posted that they’ve had no choice but to lay off their 150 employees.

“Last week when they came with their restraint and their fine, they gave us until the 20th to fix our actions,” Bordner said. “So we operated Friday, Saturday, Sunday. That gave us the opportunity to make our announcement on Friday and let people that had already traveled to Chelan to come to us, or were going to come, like we just needed a little bit of notice so that people didn’t drive three hours and get here and realized we weren’t open this weekend.”

As to whether or not Slidewaters will survive in the future, that’s yet to be determined, Bordner says.

“That’s our goal and we’re going to fight for everything that we can,” he said. “We have hopes of trying to find a way to get permission to reopen later this month or in August.”

He said the local community has been very supportive.

“That gives us the encouragement to keep going forward, to battle in every way possible to sustain the business,” he said. “But until we get to September and we know exactly what we’re looking at to survive an off season, and be able to pay all our debts, and do those things, I don’t know what it’s going to look like, … but, as I think any business owner that loves their business is going to do, you can count that Burke and I are going to fight for everything we can and do everything possible to be reopened this year. And definitely in 2021.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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