HASTINGS, Minn. (FOX 9) - A Lakeville bar owner who defied Gov. Tim Walz and reopened last week ran headlong into a skeptical Dakota County judge on Wednesday.
Judge Jerome Abrams left in place a temporary restraining order preventing Alibi Drinkery from opening its doors, as it did two days in a row last week.
"What it comes down to is this: the right to go to a bar or restaurant is not considered a protected activity under the constitution," Abrams said during a virtual court hearing.
Abrams said he would make a decision about Alibi's case soon. It's a court battle that several other Minnesota bar and restaurant owners are watching after they too defied Walz's closure orders and were sued by Attorney General Keith Ellison.
Michael Padden, the attorney for Alibi owner Lisa Monet Zarza, said the business has lost $350,000 in revenue and laid off 23 of its 25 staffers this year.
Despite a $216 million in pandemic relief approved by Walz and the state Legislature last week, Padden argued that the state has not compensated the bar for its hardship.
"The reality is, they’re going to go out of business with these types of policies," Padden said.
Padden argued that the state has not shown evidence that any patrons were infected with coronavirus after packing into Alibi last week for the bar's reopening. He also pointed to Wisconsin, where the state Supreme Court has allowed bars and restaurants to restart operations.
"There doesn’t appear to be any evidence whatsoever that there’s been an uptick in COVID due to the fact that bars and restaurants have remained open there," Padden said.
Abrams seemed unmoved by the argument.
"As much as our sister states may have different policies in place, the decision I make is not based on anecdotal information that may be available for what’s going on in Wisconsin," the judge said.
Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Odette said that Alibi's reopening had put its customers in harm's way.
Continuing to stay open for in-person dining even after the state Department of Public Safety started the procedure to revoke Alibi's liquor license showed "total disregard for public safety, creating a high-risk environment," Odette said.