Nisswa restaurant faces $98,000 fine amid fallout from COVID emergency violations

The coffee and waffle shop has continued to operate despite not having a license.

A Minnesota coffee and waffles shop that has continued to operate despite having its business license revoked last year for defying COVID rules now faces a $98,000 fine.

The Iron Waffle Coffee Company restaurant in Nisswa, Minnesota, has committed at least 49 violations of court orders since June 29, 2021, Judge Laura Nelson wrote in a Sept. 9 order, and has open for business despite no longer having a valid license. Nelson then ordered the restaurant to pay a fine of $2,000 per violation, a total of $98,000.

The entry is stayed for 30 days, however, with Iron Waffle and the State of Minnesota ordered to "conduct good faith discussions" about a potential settlement.

The restaurant, which is owned by Stacy Stranne, posted a link to an existing online fundraiser on Sept. 10, saying they are "fighting for all free market rights and individual rights for freedom!"

Iron Waffle has received 95 donations totaling $8,071 as of Wednesday afternoon, as well as 115 prayers. The restaurant also shared a marketing video highlighting Iron Waffle, backed by a track called "You Can't Stop Me," and posted its hours of operation for the week of Sept. 12.

Iron Waffle first caught the attention of state health officials in the summer of 2020. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) found its employees were not wearing a mask, in defiance of the governor's emergency pandemic order.

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MDH issued a cease and desist, and after a brief closure, Iron Waffle reopened. But continued noncompliance led to the state revoking the restaurant's business license on Dec. 6, 2020. Since then, the court has issued a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction barring Stranne from keeping the restaurant open.

Stranne, the state says, has continued to ignore the orders, and on June 29, the court granted a motion for contempt. The 49 violations, according to court documents, have occurred since that date.

A number of bars and restaurants flouted the governor's emergency COVID orders last year, resulting in the state taking legal action against many establishments.

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