Three more restaurants in Minnesota are now the subject of lawsuits from the state Attorney General for reopening despite the ban on dine-in service due to COVID-19.
AG Keith Ellison's office has announced it has filed lawsuits against the following venues:
- Pour House in Clarks Grove
- The Interchange in Albert Lea
- St. Patrick's Tavern in New Prague
The Pour House and The Interchange have already been subject of cease-and-desist orders from the Minnesota Department of Health, but it's the first time St. Patrick's Tavern has been named as being subject to enforcement action.
So far, Ellison's office has filed lawsuits against 10 bars and restaurants that have reopened in recent weeks. Several others are subject of action from MDH or the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, including liquor license suspensions.
Ellison's office said St. Patrick's Tavern had 150-200 vehicles in its parking lot on Friday, and witnesses noticed the bar "standing room only, with members of the public packed inside so tightly that it was difficult to move around inside the establishment."
"The owner openly told law enforcement that she was aware she was in violation of the governor’s executive orders, and that St. Patrick’s Tavern would continue its unlawful behavior," a press release from the AG said.
The state has received more than a dozen complaints about the Pour House, and social media posts have shown "patrons sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at the bar, and no face coverings worn by any employee or customer."
The Interchange was among those that announced it would open for "IN-DOOR DINING ... n defiance of the governor’s order" and on Dec. 17 it held an "indoor concert."
"By December 18, the Minnesota Department of Health had served a cease-and-desist order on the Interchange, but a representative of the restaurant vowed that it would continue to allow on-site dining," the AG's office said. "The restaurant was still open on December 19."
The AG's office is seeking punishments including fines of $25,000 for each violation of the governor's executive order prohibiting dine-in service. The ban expired on Dec. 18, but was extended to Jan. 11.