Like a horror movie villain that just won’t die, Scream Town, the popular Halloween attraction that was shuttered yesterday for its policy against Somali customers, is back in business.
On Monday, owner Matt Dunn sent an email to employees about instituting a policy of “zero tolerance with Somalis.” When word of the email got around, the Carver County Sheriff’s Department, which provided security for the attraction, pulled out of its contract with Scream Town. Discriminating against people based on their country of origin explicitly violated its terms, a press release from Carver County Administrator’s Office explained.
With no security in place, the county then pulled the plug on Scream Town’s conditional use permit and ordered Dunn to shut it down. That, it seemed, was that.
Except it wasn’t. Dunn prepared to file suit against the county, telling the Star Tribune that he and the rest of Scream Town “believe[d] their act to be illegal” and were going to open Friday night no matter what.
Now, county officials and the sheriff have “reached an agreement” with Dunn, according to a second press release issued by Carver County today. Scream Town will be allowed to “continue its operations through the season,” so long as it hires its own private onsite security team.
“We were very disappointed with the fact [the county] chose to [shut the attraction down,]” Dunn says. But after they “came to their agreement,” he’s dropped his suit and is “happy” they’re going to stay open.
Dunn has always defended the email he sent, claiming that he was telling his employees to look out for a specific eight or 10 teens who were causing trouble at the park, not Somalis in general. They love their Somali customers, he said in a Facebook apology on Tuesday. He recently posted about a meeting he had with Director of the Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations Jaylani Hussein, whom, he says, “could not have been a sweeter, kinder, more forgiving man.”
Hussein says he finds Dunn’s apology to be “genuine,” and believes it wasn’t his intention to discriminate against Somali people.
“He recognizes what he wrote was discriminatory and illegal,” Hussein says. “As a community, we’d feared the worst, which is that somebody actually believed what they were writing.”
Dunn called his comments about Somali customers “wrong” and “without thought,” and acknowledged that they probably caused a lot of people “a lot of pain.” But he’s encouraging everyone to come on down to Scream Town again.
“As we’ve said since the moment we opened our doors all those years ago, all are welcome,” he says.