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Owner of Albert Lea wine bar that defied COVID orders is arrested in Iowa

Warrants were issued for her arrest after she missed a March 10 court hearing.
Lisa Hanson, owner of The Interchange. 

Lisa Hanson, owner of The Interchange. 

The owner of a wine bar in Albert Lea that stayed open in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz's COVID-19 executive orders was arrested in Iowa. 

Clear Lake, Iowa, police arrested Melissa "Lisa" Hanson at 3:20 p.m. on Thursday, April 28, and she was booked into the Cerro Gordo County Jail, Clear Lake PD told Bring Me The News. She was released hours later after posting bail, J.D. Carlson, director of Albert Lea Public Safety, said.

The 56-year-old owns The Interchange Wine and Coffee Bistro in Albert Lea and has spoken out strongly against the governor's executive orders. After flaunting that her wine bar was open in defiance of COVID restrictions in December and January, she was charged with nine criminal misdemeanors (each carries a fine of up to $1,000 and 90 days in jail). 

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has also filed a lawsuit against her, in which she faces a fine of $9,000

She had a bail hearing on March 10 related to the misdemeanor charges but she failed to show up. Two arrest warrants were issued for her, and she had been on the lam for several weeks until she was arrested Thursday while walking on the beach at Clear Lake

Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag said Hanson was under surveillance by sheriff's deputies and the Albert Lea Police Department after they learned she was staying at an Airbnb she rented in Clear Lake, Iowa, the Star Tribune says. She was spotted leaving the Airbnb, at which time she was arrested.

"She should have never taken it to this level," Freitag told the paper.

Hanson called the warrants unlawful in an interview with Albert Lea Tribune earlier this week, claiming she didn't attend the March 10 hearing because she didn't get an official summons. She told the paper she left her home so "injustice could not be performed against me" and take her away from working on the cases against her. 

In a Facebook live interview with Action 4 Liberty after being released from jail, Hanson called the warrant "invalid" and questioned how much the state and county were spending on finding her. 

Freitag and other officials have told media outlets she was served the summons lawfully.

She told the Star Tribune she plans to speak at the "Stand for Liberty" rally and fundraiser for her legal expenses. The event, scheduled for Saturday at the Fountain Lake Park gazebo in Albert Lea, was planned prior to her arrest. 

Among those planning to attend are Republican state lawmakers and gubernatorial candidate and former state senator Scott Jensen.

In March, Hanson filed lawsuits against the Albert Lea city attorney, the City of Albert Lea, Gov. Walz and others related to the state's executive orders and their enforcement, the Albert Lea Tribune reported

Hanson told the Star Tribune after she was released from jail on Thursday that she plans to file lawsuits against an unknown number of people for $100,000 each for keeping her in custody for two hours. 

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