Yakima Speedway fined for allowing fans at races

Washington state regulators have fined Yakima Speedway operator Doug Bettarel $2,500 after fans were allowed to attend an auto-racing event earlier this month that officials say violated state coronavirus prevention rules.

The state Liquor and Cannabis Board delivered the public-safety violation notice last week to Bettarel’s company B and B Speedway Promotions, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.

Yakima County does not allow gatherings of more than five people. County businesses also are prohibited from allowing customers inside their establishments without masks.

Bettarel estimated that about 500 people attended the Fall Classic’s preliminary races on Oct. 3 and up to 2,000 people attended the final races on Oct. 4.

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There was also a rally for a Republican gubernatorial candidate after Sunday’s events, which drew several hundred more people to the speedway.

Bettarel was previously issued a verbal warning stemming from a rally in June, Smith said, adding that about 500 people showed up to protest Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee’s orders. That violation did not result in any sanctions.

Liquor and Cannabis Board spokesman Brian Smith said the fine is an unusual step for the board, which tries to educate businesses and help them comply with restrictions laid out in Inslee’s emergency orders.

“Very few violations have been issued, reserved for those licensed venues that openly defy the proclamation and potentially threaten public health,” Smith said in an email last Thursday.

The violation did not result in a liquor license suspension for B and B Speedway Promotions, but Bettarel was told he could face an emergency suspension and criminal charges if he holds future public events at the track.

“I can muster the money to try to pay the fine,” Bettarel said. “But I’m not going to risk them putting the cuffs on me.”

Studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.