Saunders to challenge by-law fines issued for annual Frightfest

Mark Saunders said he is going to fight the more than $3,500 in fines issued by Ottawa Bylaw and Regularity Services for the annual Frightfest Halloween attraction at Saunders Farm in Munster.

The fines were issued because of the determination that Frightfest was an outdoor event, meaning only 25 people could attend the event at one time. Frightfest is held on a 100-acre farm.

“As a pumpkin farm during the daytime, we are not restricted to gathering rules,” Saunders said in an interview with CFRA as reported by CTV’s Josh Pringle. “But, as a Frightfest at night, we are restricted to gathering rules and this is where there’s confusion.”

Saunders made the comments on CFRA Now with Kristy Cameron.

The week before Halloween, Saunders switched gears and turned the event into a drive-thru experience.

Saunders received four tickets from Bylaw for $880 each. All were for having more than 25 people at Frightfest when Bylaw showed up. He received the first ticket Oct. 16, and then received three more Oct. 21 for the crowds gathered over the three days leading up to that date.

Saunders had planned for a drive-thru experience as an option, and had to execute the plan to keep the event alive. The switch to a drive-thru Frightfest for the final two weekends cost him an estimated $100,000. The farm’s revenue is already down 70 per cent this year.

“There isn’t anything specific about farms in any of the legislation, and when the gathering laws refer to a place, that’s it 25 people in a place and that place is not defined,” Saunders was quoted as saying in the CTV story. “So it could be downtown Bank Street in a parking lot or on a 100-acre farm in the western edge of Ottawa, in the countryside.

“From our standpoint, we were following the guidelines as a place of business.”

Brendan Roy started a petition on change.org to lobby the provincial government to halt the closure of restaurants, and to get City of Ottawa by-law enforcement officers to stop targeting Saunders Farm.

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