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Monticello restaurant will pay profits to state after violating COVID order

The Minnesota Attorney General's Office has settled a lawsuit it filed against Cornerstone Cafe in Monticello.

A Monticello restaurant has agreed to give all its profits to the state as part of a settlement with the Minnesota Attorney General's Office after it reopened in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz's COVID-related executive orders. 

Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Tuesday that a settlement was reached with Cornerstone Cafe, which resolves the lawsuit the state filed against it in December for reopening for in-person service. 

“I thank this establishment for agreeing to meet its responsibility to help all Minnesotans stop the spread of COVID-19 and congratulate it on rejoining the vast majority of Minnesota bars and restaurants that are already doing so,” Ellison said in a statement.

As part of the settlement, the restaurant has agreed to give up all the profits it made while operating in violation of the orders, which amounts to $10,000. (The money will go to the state's General Fund.)

Cornerstone also agreed to fully comply with all current and future executive orders that pertain to bars and restaurants. 

If the Cornerstone violates any terms of the settlement, it could face a penalty of $25,000.

Ellison's office filed a lawsuit against Cornerstone Cafe on Dec. 18, 2020, and filed for a temporary restraining order on Dec. 21, 2020, which the court granted the next day. 

“It brings me no joy to bring enforcement actions because our top priority has always been education and voluntarily compliance and enforcement has always been a last resort," Ellison said. "Today’s settlement can be a sign to the very small handful of establishments that are violating the executive orders that compliance is still available to them.” 

Ellison's office previously said state officials have worked with more than 900 establishments and events to comply with the state's orders. 

The majority did comply, but Ellison said he filed lawsuits against 13 business owners in 2020 who wouldn't comply. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has taken enforcement action against several other establishments and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has suspended the liquor licenses of some restaurants that did not comply. 

In total, state officials have taken enforcement action against more than 20 businesses that violated Walz's executive orders, most of them restaurants or bars. Here's a list.  

The order banning indoor dining at bars and restaurants ended over the weekend, allowing establishments to reopen on Monday for in-person service, with restrictions.

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