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Albert Lea bar plans COVID relief-funded party for Friday night, faces $9K fine

The Interchange is throwing a "Nail it to the Walz' Reopen MN Party" on Friday night.

The Interchange Wine and Coffee Bistro in Albert Lea is facing a $9,000 fine for a party it plans to host in violation of Gov. Tim Walz's executive orders. 

At the "'Nail it to the Walz' Reopen MN Party", the restaurant says there will be live music, as well as free food and drinks paid for using the COVID-19 relief check it recently got from the state, which is designed to help businesses survive the state-ordered COVID shutdowns. 

The bar has been advertising the upcoming party on Facebook this week, which Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a news release Thursday will violate Executive Order 21-01, which requires reservations and that restaurants close by 10 p.m.

Because The Interchange is threatening to violate the executive order, it is in contempt of court, the release said, so the court has imposed a fine of $9,000 ($3,000 a day for violations on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday). 

“It’s sad to see an establishment with so little concern for the health of its customers, employees, and community,” Ellison said in a statement. “More than 2,500 households in Freeborn County alone have been hurt by the deadly COVID-19 virus — and as the number continues to rise, this establishment keeps breaking the law and the executive orders that are designed to prevent suffering and death. 

"I will not hesitate to continue to use all the tools I have to keep Minnesotans safe," Ellison added.

This isn't The Interchange's first time violating the governor's orders

On Dec. 21, 2020, Ellison's office sued The Interchange for violating the state's ban on indoor dining at restaurants. The next day, Ellison's office filed for a temporary restraining order to prevent the restaurant from further violating executive orders, which Freeborn County District Court granted. 

Then on Jan. 8, the court found The Interchange in civil contempt of court and ordered the restaurant to pay $3,000 per day for each day it continued to violate any executive orders. 

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At a hearing on Thursday, it issued the aforementioned $9,000 fine for the planned party, as well as changed the temporary restraining order into a temporary injunction. This move requires the restaurant to fully comply with all executive orders for during of the state's lawsuit against The Interchange. 

The Interchange also faces a possible liquor license suspension from the state for defying the governor's executive orders. 

Here's a list of businesses the state has taken action against for violating COVID rules. 

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