A Scott County bar has agreed to pay a $15,000 fine in a lawsuit settlement with the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison.
St. Patrick's Tavern & Restaurant in New Prague was sued by the AG for opening to indoor dining service when Gov. Tim Walz used an executive order to temporarily shut down indoor service at bars and restaurants statewide from Nov. 20, 2020 to Jan. 10, 2021 in response to spiking COVID-19 cases.
The AG's office said it found the eatery in violation of the order on multiple occasions, namely when it accused St. Patrick's of serving "several hundred customers indoors" on Dec. 18-19. Those violations prompted the lawsuit.
The bar claims that as part of its punishment, it was also required to shut down during the week ending April 4, though this wasn't mentioned in the AG's settlement statement.
"St. Patrick's will be closed from Monday, March 29th, through Sunday, April 4th. The Minnesota Department of Health is shutting us down because we were open one weekend in December 2020!" the St. Patrick's Tavern Facebook page said.
The lawsuit settlement does include language that would see St. Patrick's fined an additional $25,000 for any future violation. Funds from the settle go to the state's General Fund, not the Attorney General's Office.
An employee of the bar explained in a Facebook post in late March why the bar opened against state orders, saying fellow employees were hurting for money right before the holidays.
"We had been closed, we opened up outside, we masked, cleaned, went to 25 percent capacity and more and yet we were shut down again," the post said.
"Many of us work at the bar part time to supplement our income and we did not get unemployment. We were losing income right before the holidays. We contacted the governor multiple times to try and work something out that didn’t hurt small businesses so hard and got no response. We did something to make a statement and no one and nothing got hurt."
“It’s every Minnesotan’s responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19. I thank this business for agreeing to meet its responsibility and rejoin the vast majority of Minnesota businesses that are already doing so,” Ellison said in a statement. “My top priority has always been educating Minnesotans about their responsibility and winning voluntary compliance. Enforcement has been and will continue to be a last resort.”