Hundreds of Minnesota Bar and Restaurant owners vowed to defy Gov. Tim Walz’s restriction and opened their doors for indoor dining last Wednesday.
Several — including Pizza Depot in Becker, Cornerstone in Monticello and Neighbors On The Rum in Princeton — were issued cease-and-desist orders and commanded to shut down operations for indoor dining.
Last week, the Facebook group ReOpen MN Coalition released a list of businesses the group claims signed a pact to open their doors. Several of the signees remained anonymous but were “advertising within their local community.”
State officials have insisted these businesses are high risks for community spread of COVID-19, but the group disagrees.
“Every affected group, from restaurants to gyms to schools to youth sports have the data laid out clearly showing that none of Walz’s ongoing lockdowns make any sense, and in a just world would be considered worthy of criminal charges,” a post from the Facebook group stated on Tuesday.
“I felt the need to do it because our governor cannot show us the data, in my opinion, that merits ruining an industry like this,” said Pizza Depot Owner Jane du’Monceaux. “I believe if we’re in a true state of emergency the airport bars should be shut down, or at least people quarantined after they leave the airport, and the same with the casinos.”
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced last Friday it has issued cease-and-desist orders to The Pizza Depot, in Becker, and Hooligans Lakeside, in Lake Park, after determining that the facilities had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Walz issued Executive Order 20-99 on Nov. 18. The executive order prohibits bars and restaurants from offering on-premises dining. The executive order was issued at a time of rapid acceleration in the spread of COVID-19 across Minnesota and sought to protect Minnesotans while also preventing hospitals and health care systems from becoming overwhelmed by the surge in cases.
On Dec. 16, MDH inspected The Pizza Depot in Becker. During the inspection, MDH staff found the establishment was open for on-premises consumption of food and beverage in violation of Executive Order 20-99.
The next day, Dec. 17, MDH inspected Hooligans Lakeside in Lake Park. During the inspection, MDH staff found the establishment was open for on-premises consumption in violation of Executive Order 20-99.
According to MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff, enforcement actions are a last resort when it is clear that education and outreach are not sufficient to help a regulated establishment come into compliance with requirements.
“COVID-19 protocols are designed to slow the spread of this virus and reduce the impacts of this pandemic,” said MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff.
“Our preference is always to work with businesses to bring them into compliance, and we consider regulatory actions as a last resort. The vast majority of businesses are doing their best to help slow down the spread of COVID-19, and we owe it to them to have a consistent and fair enforcement approach.”
Dec.11, Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office filed a temporary restraining order against Boardwalk Bar and Grill in East Grand Forks, which had continued in-person dining service despite state restrictions. The Department of Public Safety suspended the bar’s liquor license days later.
Haven’s Garden, a Lynd restaurant near Marshall, MN, violated the Minnesota Department of Health’s cease and desist order to stop dine-in service, and was sued Dec. 11. The MDH also announced it had revoked the license of Iron Waffle restaurant in Nisswa, which it claims had repeatedly failed to comply with COVID-19 restrictions and had already been fined $9,500.
In a statement, Ellison said only a handful of Minnesota businesses were planning on reopening and that he gets “no happiness out of enforcing the order, but my duty to protect Minnesotans from the deadliest global pandemic in a century demands it.”
To demonstrate his support for their courageous actions, District 55A Representative-elect Erik Mortensen took an 800 mile road trip across the state to talk to these business owners, their employees and their customers. The biggest take away from these conversations, he said, was “Gov. Walz has lost the consent of the governed.”
“Of course the truth is that the elites across the country are trying to shape us into what they perceive is best for us,” Mortensen said in a released statement.
“This is obvious because it’s always been their goal and now they’re using COVID as their newest implementation strategy. Of course people like you and I simply want to live our lives and be left alone.”
“That’s why it’s so important we continue to remain galvanized towards protecting the American dream. The United States is the last bastion of freedom in the world and we cannot allow the collectivists to throw it all away in exchange for their impossible utopia.”
“This is so much more than wanting to make money, as we have been accused of several times recently,” said du’Monceaux. “Yes, our family has three separate households to pay for and we do have bills just like anybody else, however, we believe in We the People and this great country and we feel that this is more than just about a virus. I lost my mother during this whole shut down -- I get that it is real. But right now I feel the cure is worse than the disease.”
Minnesota Sen. Andrew Mathews this week called on Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington to immediately reinstate the liquor license for Neighbors on the Rum. Sen. Mathews issued his call after the Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement division suspended Neighbor’s liquor license for 60 days. Attorney General Keith Ellison also announced a lawsuit against Neighbors, which faces civil penalties of up to $25,000.
“I’m calling on Harrington to immediately reinstate the liquor license for our local restaurant, Neighbors on the Rum,” said Sen. Mathews. “They have violated no statute or ordinance, only the tyrannical Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-99.”
Every day that we keep pretending that executive orders have the same force of law as statutes, and that we can punish citizens solely based on the decrees of one ruler, is an affront to our Constitutional system.”
“This is not acceptable. These orders have not been passed into law by the legislature, and they are destroying the lives and livelihoods of Minnesotans. Attorney General Ellison should immediately drop his lawsuit against Neighbors and their liquor license should be reinstated. Neighbors – or any other bar or restaurant — should never be punished for trying to put food on their tables.”
Pizza Depot was closed from Friday thru Sunday but re-opened Monday for takeout
“We defied the governor because we are trying to stand strong with our industry,” du’Monceaux said. “People are losing everything and it is just not fair because it is not consistent. I don’t regret opening for one second. I think we’re hitting the tip of the iceberg with making our point (all the restaurants or who are defying the governor), but we have a long way to go.”