(FOX 9) - Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's office filed lawsuits Monday against three bars/restaurants for violating the ban on indoor dining amid the pandemic. Less than a week ago, Ellison's office sued two other bars for similar violations.
According to a release from Ellison's office, St. Patrick’s Tavern in New Prague, Pour House in Clarks Grove, and The Interchange in Albert Lea put community at risk by operating on-premises indoor dining in open violation of Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-99, a targeted dial-back of certain activities to halt the spread of COVID-19. The order states that bars and restaurants must close for on-premises indoor dining until January 10, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.
St. Patrick’s Tavern had between 150 and 200 vehicles in its parking lot on Dec. 18, and, according to the release, witnesses said the bar was standing room only. The owner reportedly told law enforcement that she was aware she was in violation of the governor’s executive orders, and that St. Patrick’s Tavern would continue violating the order.
Ellison's office also noted that the Pour House in Clarks Grove has been the focus of more than a dozen complaints, including a report that noted the bar was operating at "max capacity." Public social media posts show patrons sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at the bar, and no face coverings worn by any employee or customer.
The Interchange in Albert Lea announced on Dec. 15, that it would open for indoor dining "in defiance of the governor’s order," according to the release. Two days later, The Interchange held an indoor concert. On Dec. 18, MDH had served a cease-and-desist order to The Interchange, but a representative of the restaurant vowed that it would continue to allow on-site dining. The restaurant was still open on Dec. 19.
"There are 10,000 restaurants and 1,500 bars in Minnesota," Ellison said in the release. "By far the vast majority of them have served their communities by complying with the law all along. Unfortunately, a very small handful are threatening their customers, their workers, and their communities by refusing to comply and violating the law. Their insistence on violating the law is simply prolonging the pain of the pandemic for everyone."
In the lawsuits, Attorney General Ellison’s office asked the court to:
- Declare that defendants’ actions constitute violations of Executive Order 20-99
- Stop anyone associated with these establishments from violating or threatening to violate the executive orders
- Award restitution, disgorgement, or damages to the State
- Impose civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation or threatened violation of the executive order
- Award the State its costs
- Impose any other relief the court finds just
Any and all fines the court may impose go to the State of Minnesota general fund, not the Attorney General’s Office.
Last week, Ellison's office sued two bars for violating the order. The latest lawsuits bring the total of enforcement actions the Attorney General’s office has filed against establishments violating Executive Order 20-99 — either under its own authority or on behalf of MDH — to 10.