Summer nights on the west side of Denver have traditionally been punctuated by the roar of massive horsepower reverberating off the Hogback.
For more than 60 years, crowds have watched racers speed down the quarter-mile track at Bandimere Speedway.
In 2020, crowds at Bandimere have been a harbinger of something other than split-second times; they have been the fuel for protests and lawsuits. The race is on, but funny cars have been replaced by clown cars full of partisans using Bandimere for their proxy war.
Over the Fourth of July holiday, Bandimere hosted race fans looking for an escape from coronavirus cabin fever. The speedway publicly encouraged social distancing and masks but enforced neither. Unfortunately, Bandimere ran afoul of the Jefferson County Public Health Department mandate to limit gatherings at outdoor venues to 175 people or less per activity area.
With more than 7,500 people in attendance, keeping groups from congregating in numbers within the health department proscription quickly became impossible. The ignition for both sides turned over and engines began to rev.
When the health department took legal action against Bandimere, the track responded by hiring well-known far right talk show host Randy Corporon as counsel. Corporon founded the Arapahoe County Tea Party, serves as the state’s Republican National Committee member and counts State House Minority Leader Patrick Neville among his allies. In fact, Corporon recently filed a petition to the Colorado Supreme Court on behalf of Neville and Michelle Malkin asking the court to overturn Gov. Jared Polis’ mask-mandate.
The Supreme Court denied the petition summarily.
It should be no surprise that days later Neville and Malkin organized a self-proclaimed “Stop the COVID Chaos” rally – at Bandimere Speedway. Thousands showed up and crowded together in a mostly mask-less mass to protest against Polis’s mask mandate.
Jefferson County’s health department, which had been denied a permanent restraining order against Bandimere in July, filed a new court action. Given that a judge previously ordered the business to comply with state requirements, it seems likely that more severe measures may be imposed this go round.
That could be an existential threat for the Colorado institution. While the race season is nearly over anyway, the speedway already suffered substantial hits to its revenue stream during the coronavirus pandemic. As Sun columnist Craig Silverman learned in July, even PPP funds acquired by the racetrack have not stemmed the financial exsanguination caused by losing premier events like the Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
The last business that followed Neville into the fray, C&C Coffee and Kitchen in Castle Rock, had its restaurant license yanked by Polis as an “immediate health hazard.” Bandimere seems destined to find itself on the wrong end of a court order.
It is an unfortunate trajectory, particularly given the cause for the rally. While I sympathize with businesses struggling to stay open, putting your livelihood on the line over the mask mandate seems like a foolish risk.
Leading economists believe wearing masks provides the only path to recovery – Goldman Sachs estimated that a national mask mandate would save $1 trillion in economic activity. Consequently, flouting a court order to protest mask requirements is both reckless and dumb.
It would be like racing without a helmet.
Doing so at the behest of partisan political players attempting to leverage an election year wedge issue is like letting go of the wheel at 300 mph.
The fate of Bandimere, and what type of punishment it may face, will be determined just a couple miles away from the end of its racetrack in the Jefferson County Courthouse. Given the time of year and extraordinary circumstances, Bandimere may escape serious damage.
But if not, and if Bandimere finds itself subject to significant legal repercussions, it may be a like a devastating crash into the wall. Even the best safety protections might not save the speedway.
Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq
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