$3,000 per day fine for Minnesota bar that violated COVID-19 closure order

A Dakota County judge has found Alibi Drinkery owner Lisa Monet Zarza in contempt of court for keeping her Lakeville, Minnesota bar open in violation of a temporary injunction and the state’s executive order on indoor dining restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Judge Jerome Abrams ordered a $3,000 fine for each day Alibi Drinkery remains open in violation of the order.

The bar risks a five-year liquor license suspension for its continued failure to comply with the executive order, which will be heard at a February hearing before an administrative law judge.

Zarza, did not speak during a virtual contempt hearing on Tuesday.

"I think you should give her a break," said defense attorney Mike Padden. "An ultimatum when to close her business in light of your previous order."

"It’s not just about whether or not people can go to bars, but it’s just as much about whether a person who has a heart attack patient or a car crash can find an emergency room in a hospital," said Dakota County District Court Judge Jerome Abrams.

Abrams expressed his frustration with Zarza for continuing to allow in-person dining and drinking despite the state’s current pandemic restrictions.

Padden argued Zarza has no choice as she faces potential financial ruin. He also questioned the science and data behind Minnesota’s COVID-19 death counts that Padden suggested officials use to justify business closures and restrictions.

Indoor dining resumes at bars and restaurants 

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is ending his ban on indoor dining, which will allow restaurants and indoor entertainment venues to reopen starting Monday, Jan. 11.  Walz is rolling back the restrictions to levels from early November, before he shut down thousands of businesses across the state to deal with a virus surge that month.

Walz's new order allows indoor dining at 50 percent capacity starting Monday, with no more than 150 people in an establishment.

Six people can be seated at each table, with 6 feet of distance between tables. Bar seating will be allowed, with no more than two people per party. Reservations are required, and a curfew will be in effect from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Hospitality Minnesota and the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, which represent the bar and restaurant industry, said the changes were positive news after several weeks of much tougher restrictions.