2 Minnesota bars punished for illegal re-openings Wednesday

Maskless patrons pack a Lakeville restaurant that reopened in defiance of the Governor's executive order Wednesday.

The Minnesota Attorney General says his office plans to hold accountable restaurants that are serving food and beverages to in-person diners Wednesday.

According to the AG’s office, a group of 150 Minnesota establishments supposedly opened Wednesday in violation of Gov. Tim Walz’s most recent executive order. The coalition of businesses includes gyms and restaurants who say they plan to defy the Governor's orders and some, like Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville, have already started. It and others have already been given notices of their punishments as of Wednesday night. 

"We had a line of people at 11 o'clock out the door and it hasn't stopped all day," said Lisa Monet Zarza, co-owner of Alibi. 

Zarza said the restaurant's choice was to open now or close for good. 

"Our employees need to work. We need to work. If you don't feel safe, don't go out," she said. 

Wednesday night, the state Department of Public Safety announced its intention to suspend Alibi Drinkery's license for 60 days, pending a hearing before an administrative judge. Neighbors on the Rum, in Princeton, Minnesota, also received a notice of license suspension. 

Julie Schroeder, the owner of the entertainment business Color Me Mine, said she plans to open Friday against the Governor's order. She said even with relief from lawmakers coming, it wouldn't be enough. 

"I just need to run my business and if you don't want to come, I completely understand that, but I wish they would understand me as well," she said. 

Attorney General Keith Ellison said about 40 percent of the establishments on the list are either allowed to legally operate under the order, do not intend to violate the order or are anonymous. Of the remaining 60 percent, 60 of them are bars and restaurants and 20 of those told the Attorney General’s Office they were complying and were not open Wednesday.

Ellison’s office is still looking in to the remaining 40 restaurants. Thus far, he said only a “small handful” of restaurants determined an establishment was openly defying the executive order.

“Our approach from the start has been to win voluntary compliance, and in almost all cases, we’ve been able to do so,” said Ellison in a release. “To those few businesses that are choosing to openly violate the executive order, I say this is the wrong way to go. I don’t enjoy using the enforcement tools I have, but I will use them to hold violators accountable and keep Minnesotans safe.”

Wednesday, a Crow Wing County restaurant received a $10,000 fine and a license suspension notice for opening twice during this executive order, according to the Department of Health.

While the Attorney General has set his sights on offenders, he said the “vast majority” of businesses are following the rules.

“I also want to say to the vast majority of Minnesota businesses that are making sacrifices to comply with the law and keep their customers, employees, and communities safe that I see you and I thank you. You deserve our gratitude. You do not deserve unfair competition from those who are not doing their part,” Ellison said.