A Lakeville bar and restaurant that promoted reopening in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz's COVID-19 executive orders has been found in contempt of court.
A Dakota County judge on Thursday issued a ruling against Alibi Drinkery, finding it in contempt of court after it didn't comply with a December court injunction that required the bar to suspend indoor service.
For every day the bar stays open going forward, Alibi will be fined $3,000, the judge ordered, according to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison's office.
"Each day the defendant remains in violation of the injunction, the health and welfare of the public are at risk and are being irreparably harmed," Dakota County District Court Judge Jerome Abrams wrote in his ruling, according to the Star Tribune.
Ellison in a statement said, “I am grateful that the court recognized the severity of the pandemic and the harm that Alibi’s flagrant violation of the law is causing Minnesotans."
The $3,000 a day fine is higher than what is recommended in civil contempt guidelines, KSTP reports. The court did this because it determined "a minimal fine wouldn't lead to compliance with the injunction and would likely result in further spread of COVID-19."
“My client will continue to vigorously litigate the state’s attempt to secure a permanent injunction, and we will appeal the court’s orders, orders that are the result of false, misleading data submitted by the State, data we look forward to further scrutinizing in the litigation process,” Alibi co-owner Lisa Zarza's Mike Padden told WCCO.
Padden told the Pioneer Press he was pleased the judge did not make the $3,000 fine retroactive. He did not say if Zarza planned to close the bar to comply with the current executive order, which expires Sunday night.
Bars and restaurants in Minnesota can reopen to indoor dining at 50% capacity on Jan. 11, according to Walz's latest executive order.
The judge's ruling on Thursday follows a hearing on Jan. 5 and weeks of action taken by the state of Minnesota and a lawsuit and court filings from Attorney General Keith Ellison's office.
Meanwhile, Alibi is facing a five-year liquor suspension for violating the governor's orders.
State's actions against Alibi
Here's a timeline of the action the state has taken and what's to come for Alibi:
Walz issued an executive order on Nov. 18, 2020, prohibiting in-person dining at bars and restaurants. On Dec. 16, Walz extended that order through Jan. 10.
Alibi co-owner Lisa Monet Zarza advertised that the bar would reopen on Dec. 16, 2020, in defiance of the governor's order.
MDH on Dec. 18, 2020, issued a cease-and-desist order after Alibi was found to be open for in-person service and employees not wearing masks after it posted on social media that it was reopening on Dec. 16, 2020, despite the executive orders prohibiting it.
On Dec. 17, 2020, Ellison's office said it filed a lawsuit and a separate temporary restraining order against Alibi. On Dec. 18, 2020, Dakota County District Court granted the temporary restraining order, forcing the restaurant to close or it would be found in contempt of court.
On Dec. 31, 2020, Dakota County District Court granted Ellison's motion for a temporary injunction that will remain in effect for the duration of the state's lawsuit against Alibi. With this order, Alibi must remain closed to in-person service through Jan. 10 or risk being found in civil contempt of court and could result in its liquor license being revoked.
The Minnesota Department of Safety (DPS) on Dec. 31, 2020, informed Alibi it faces a five-year liquor license revocation for "ongoing and blatant violations" of the governor's executive orders.
That same day, Ellison asked the court to find Alibi in contempt of court for continuing to offer in-person service in violation of the executive order, meaning the eatery could face monetary sanctions and/or imprisonment. Alibi had closed Dec. 22, 2020, but reopened on Dec. 31, 2020.
As of Jan. 6, Alibi continued to serve people in-person in defiance of the orders, the Pioneer Press said.
A hearing on this was held Jan. 5. On Jan. 7, a Dakota County District Court judge found Alibi in contempt of court and ordered it to pay a fine of $3,000 for every day that it allows indoor dining.
A hearing regarding the state's request to revoke Alibi's liquor license for five years is scheduled Feb. 3, the Star Tribune says.