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AG files suit against Minnesota event center planning 'New Year's Eve Bash'

The event would contravene COVID-19 rules.

A lawsuit has been filed against an event center in southern Minnesota that is planning an indoor "New Year's Eve Bash" on Thursday, which would violate COVID-19 rules.

The suit has been filed by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison against the Carlson Event Center in Winnebago, Fairbault County.

The remains a ban in place on dine-in service and a temporary closure of venues that providing indoor entertainment or events – including theaters, cinemas, and bowling alleys – with the shutdown due to expire at 11:59 p.m. Jan. 10.

The AG's office says the Carlson Event Center is urging attendees to "bring their own beer and liquor," and noted that its efforts to call and email the business "went unreturned."

"Performance venues, like many other businesses, have been hurting during this pandemic," Ellison said. "I’m glad to see efforts like the recently-passed Minnesota aid package and the Minnesota-born national Save Our Stages Act are out there helping these businesses make it through this challenging time.

"By far the vast majority of indoor venues have been complying with the law all along. But when a business irresponsibly opens to the public to throw a dance party, their insistence on violating the law is simply prolonging the pain of the pandemic for everyone."

Outdoor events and entertainment are allowed under the order following changes made on Dec. 18, allowing outdoor venues to open at 25% capacity, 100 people max, with 6 feet of distance between households.

Restaurants and bars are also allowed to open for outdoor dining provided they operate at 50% capacity, or a maximum of 100 people, and that social distancing is observed.

Ellison's filing asks a court to declare the event center's event a violation of Gov. Tim Walz's COVID executive order, and stop the event from going ahead.

It also asks the court to impose a $25,000 fine for each violation or threatened violation of the executive order.

It's the first event center that's been subject of action by the AG's office for contravening the restrictions imposed by Walz in late November as COVID-19 surged in the state.

Cases have dropped since Nov. 30, but remain higher than at any point prior to October. It's not clear yet whether Walz will extend or loosen restrictions further after Jan. 10.

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