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Business owners say ‘threat of repercussions’ from state officials led to Trump event venue change

“To say that our family is disappointed is an understatement,” the owners of Greenway Equipment Sales said.

BANGOR, Maine — On Thursday, President Donald Trump’s son, Don Jr., will be in Maine for a campaign event. Until Wednesday night, the venue was set for Greenway Equipment Sales in Bangor, but the venue was then changed to the Orrington Calvary Chapel in Orrington.

Tyler and Mitchel Smith, the owners of Greenway Equipment Sales, say the venue changed after a letter was sent to them Wednesday night, restating Maine’s coronavirus restrictions on gatherings and safety mandates.

The letter, sent by Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, said if there was non-compliance with the executive orders and guidelines, the state would take all reasonable and practicable actions to protect the health and safety of Maine people.

Maine has a statewide mask mandate in public spaces when social distancing is difficult to maintain, and an outdoor gathering limit of 100 people.

The Smiths said after they got the letter, they consulted with the Trump campaign, who ultimately made the decision to move the event to another venue.

“To say that our family is disappointed is an understatement,” the Smiths wrote in a press release Thursday.

The business owners said they were prepared to ensure their family, employees, and attendees were safe, and that masks and social distancing were “at the top of that list.”

“We understood the challenges of enforcing these requests and had full cooperation from the Trump campaign and event organizers,” they said.

On Sunday, the President’s impromptu visit to Treworgy Family Orchards in Levant drew thousands of people, sparking criticism over the lack of coronavirus guidelines followed. The CEO of Treworgy admitted the visit turned out to be more than he agreed to and said he shared concerns over the lack of guidelines followed.

RELATED: Treworgy CEO says they share concerns over lack of guidelines followed during Trump visit

“Obviously we’re concerned in the midst of a pandemic a gathering of this size was not in line with our own policies or the state of Maine’s,” Treworgy CEO Jonathan Kenerson told NEWS CENTER Maine. “We were told it would be a small event and I’m sad to see it wasn’t.” 

Maine is currently facing a concerning trend of increased coronavirus cases, which has prompted Gov. Janet Mills and state health officials to urge Mainers to remain cautious to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Mills has publicly denounced the Trump campaign’s events in Maine for their lack of precautions.

RELATED: Governor Janet Mills, Sara Gideon criticize President Trump prior to his Maine visit

RELATED: Mills ‘disappointed’ coronavirus guidelines weren’t followed at Pence rally

“We feel strongly about our right to assemble and show support for the candidates of our choice, and we were taking every step to ensure that our family, employees, and the attendees at this rally would be safe,” the Smiths said. “Masks and social distancing were at the top of that list.  We understood the challenges of enforcing these requests and had full cooperation from the Trump campaign and event organizers.”

The Smiths say the “threat of repercussions” on their business concerned them and despite their best efforts, “we realized that some variables were beyond our control.”

“We thank everyone for their words of support and encouragement over the last few days.  We are respectful of the fact that not everyone supports the same candidate,” they said. “We are blessed to be Americans and to have the right to vote. We encourage everyone to exercise that right.  We are living in an exceptionally challenging time. We also encourage everyone to exercise respect and show appreciation for all we have as Americans.”

During Thursday's coronavirus briefing, Lambew said she and the Maine DHHS have been in touch with the new venue, Orrington Calvary Chapel, as well, to again share their guidance on public health and large gatherings.

"We expect them, for the sake of public health, to comply, but we don't yet want to speculate on what that event will entail," Lambrew said. "It is possible—and it has been proven here in Maine—that you can hold events, large gatherings safely."