Albert Lea, Minn. restaurant fined $3K per day for violating COVID-19 order

A judge has found an Albert Lea, Minnesota bar in contempt of court and has issued a fine against the establishment for remaining open to indoor service, in defiance of an executive order from Governor Walz.

A judge has issued a $3,000 per day fine for each day The Interchange Wine and Coffee Bistro remains open.

The fine matches punishment for the Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville, which was also found in contempt of court for violating Governor Walz's executive order.

Both restaurants faced penalties and lawsuits from the state after opening doors despite COVID-19 restrictions barring indoor service for restaurants and bars.

Attorney General Keith Ellison, who has been tasked with enforcing the executive order, thanked the judge for his decision on Friday.

"I’m glad to see serious consequences for defying the court and endangering Minnesotans," Attorney General Ellison wrote. "The vast majority of Minnesota bars and restaurants are complying with the law and meeting their responsibility to keep their communities safe. The very small handful that are not should take note that their willful defiance has real-world consequences, as it should."

This week, Governor Walz announced he would dial back restrictions for bars and restaurants, allowing indoor dining at 50 percent starting this coming Monday.