Bars and restaurants that reopen Monday could face steep punishment

There are hefty fines for businesses that put workers at risk while the shutdown is in place.
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Bars and restaurants intending to open on Monday in violation of the state's mitigation efforts against COVID-19 could face steep punishments.

There have been more than a dozen establishments in Stearns County that have announced their intentions to reopen on Monday.

Said announcements came even before Gov. Tim Walz revealed his intention to let the Stay at Home order expire at 11:59 p.m. Sunday – however he did extend the ban on dine-in service at bars and restaurants until the end of the month.

The governor has said that his administration will be publishing guidelines for bars and restaurants to reopen by Mar. 20 at the latest, with the possibility – but not guarantee – that they could resume operations on June 1.

But based on social media posts, many of the bars that previously planned on opening Monday are still going ahead with it, and in doing so they could face significant financial punishments for violating the order and putting their staff at risk with COVID-19 increasingly widespread in Minnesota.

The governor's office told BMTN that penalties for violating its executive order are up to $1,000 in fines or 90 days in jail for individuals, and for businesses "that force workers to violate the orders the fines go up to $25,000."

Stearns County has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in Minnesota with 1,609, with much of this linked to outbreaks at meat processing plants like the Pilgrim's Pride facility in Cold Spring.

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Bar and restaurant owners, such as Kris Schiffler of Shady's – who intends to open his 6 locations across the county – say they will put measures in place to limit spread, such as by removing some of their bar stools to put more space between customers.

That wasn't the case in some parts of Wisconsin when bars opened on Wednesday, with images showing crowds of customers at establishments, few of them wearing masks or social distancing.

Ultimately, whether bars in Minnesota will be punished for opening too soon will be up to local police, who are charged with carrying out enforcement of the governor's orders.

BMTN reached out to Albany Police Department, home to one of the Shady's pubs, who said it "will respond to calls if requested and they will be handled on a case by case basis."

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