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Health officials shut down MN bar for COVID-19 violation, owner calls it 'government overreach'

The owner explained why he was ordered to close.

A central Minnesota bar that has made headlines this year due to its response to mask mandates amid the coronavirus pandemic was ordered to close for 72 hours. 

Rollie's Rednecks and Longnecks in Sauk Rapids was ordered by public health officials to close for three days, with Tuesday marking the first day of punishment. In a statement posted to the bar's Facebook page, owner Roland Hogrefe said: "Due to government over reach... we are shut down until further notice. God bless america the land of the FREE!!!!"

It's a 72-hour "time out," as Hogrefe referred to it during an appearance on the Steel Toe Morning Show Wednesday. "It's just so over the top. We can't live our lives anymore, it seems," he said.

Hogrefe said a person with the Benton County Health Department visited the bar and instructed him to wear a mask, to which he said he wouldn't because it's "way too hot" in the kitchen.

The public health worker, according to Hogrefe, then told him to make sure all staff were wearing masks for an inspection that was to take place. 

The next day, Benton County Public Health failed Rollie's because, per Hogrefe, two waitresses who were off the clock were sitting at the bar with their masks down while counting tips. 

The Department of Health's latest COVID-19 guidance for bars and restaurants stipulates that no more than 10 people can sit at a table, but once seated masks can be removed to eat and drink. 

"They made a big deal out of it. I'm kind of glad it actually happened because for the last how many weeks we've been waiting for the health department to show up. It's so stupid, they want people to live in fear," said Hogrefe. 

Rollie's will reopen Friday, and plans to hold a rally for President Donald Trump is still on for Saturday outside the bar. 

Rollie's was among 14 Minnesota bars or restaurants that were warned in July for violating the state's COVID-19 rules, but a follow-up review found all 14 establishments to have found no further violations. 

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The bars and restaurants initially received warning letters after violations were found by Department of Public Safety and law enforcement agents conducting checks on 919 venues around the state, with employees not wearing face masks being the most common violation.

In June, The St. Cloud Times reported that the listing for Rollie's was removed from Visit Greater St. Cloud and Explore Minnesota's tourism websites after Unitecloud voiced its support for community members who protested the bar's Confederate displays. Hogrefe later filed a defamation lawsuit against Unitecloud

In 2011, Hogrefe was convicted of a felony after running down a Black man with his truck in St. Cloud. The Pioneer Press says Hogrefe told police he hit the man in self-defense after shots were fired, but then eventually admitted the shots were fired after he exchanged words, including racial epithets, and hit the pedestrian.

Bring Me The News asked Benton County Public Health to comment on the situation. 

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