12 Minnesota restaurants now face legal action for reopening indoor service

Four other establishments have received cease and desist letters.
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The road sign at Mission Tavern in Merrifield, Minnesota. 

The road sign at Mission Tavern in Merrifield, Minnesota. 

There are now 12 Minnesota bars/restaurants that are facing legal action imposed by Attorney General Keith Ellison for reopening in the face of Gov. Tim Walz's ban on indoor service. 

On Saturday, Ellison's office filed lawsuits against two more establishments for violating the order: Cork in Anoka and Cornerstone Cafe in Monticello. The state also warned The Pour House in Clarks Grove of a potential liquor license suspension if it doesn't obey the executive order, which is aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 and is in place until 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 10. 

Those business owners join five others that have faced similar legal action after reopening: Boardwalk Bar and Grill in East Grand Forks, The Interchange in Albert Lea, Neighbors on the Rum in Princeton, Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville and Mission Tavern in Merrifield. 

“There are 10,000 restaurants and 1,500 bars in Minnesota. By far the vast majority of them have served their communities by complying with the law all along. Of the few that have threatened not to comply and the even fewer that violated the law, many have already pulled back," Ellison stated Saturday. 

The Minnesota Department of Health has also issued cease-and-desist orders against Pizza Depot in Becker, Hooligans Lakeside in Lake Park, Havens Garden in Lynd and the Iron Waffle in Nisswa. 

The action Ellison and county authorities have taken against Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville has been the most extreme. On Saturday, Ellison confirmed that Dakota County District Court imposed a temporary restraining order that could result in contempt of court if Alibi reopens for on-premises service. 

“I don’t enjoy using tools I have available to force establishments to comply, but today has shown once again that my office will use them when we must in order to protect Minnesotans from this deadly virus," Ellison said. 

Bars/restaurants that continue to violate Walz's order could face a 5-year liquor license suspension. 

Owners react to legal actions

Lisa Hanson, the owner of The Interchange in Albert Lea, wrote on Facebook Dec. 15 that she was reopening for indoor service because it "is our only chance of possibly surviving the governor’s illegal shutdowns."

The owner of The Pour House in Clarks Grove wrote that business owners "should not have to feel like criminals" for trying to support family and employees. "We are not bad humans.... We are beyond stressed with what the attorney General is doing to us," the Facebook post says. 

"We never knew offering adults a choice, would bring out so much hate... You have the right to not come here... You have the right to make your own decisions... We don't have to agree, but we'll respect it," Cork announced in a Facebook post Dec. 18. 

A similar sentiment was posted to social media by Mission Tavern, which says it is facing a food and liquor license ban that would last 60 days from the date the executive order expires (if the executive order is extended, the the suspension would start at the end of the extension). 

"All we are asking for is the right to safely open our business, employ our staff, and serve our community. We are asking for the right of every citizen to take the precautions they deem necessary to live healthy and happy!" Mission Tavern's post reads. 

A GoFundMe for Mission Tavern has so far raised more than $11,000 of a $100,000 goal. 

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