Two Minnesota restaurants that in May violated or threatened to violate statewide closure orders aimed at curbing the spread of COVID will pay civil fines, under a settlement of lawsuits filed by the Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office.
The Boardwalk Bar and Grill in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, will pay $ 25,000 and face a 30-day license suspension, Ellison’s office said Friday. A restaurant chain known as Shady’s, which operates six branches in Stearns, Benton and Todd counties, will pay a fine of $ 30,000.
The attorney general’s office sued Shady’s when owner Kris Schiffler promised to reopen despite Gov. Tim Walz’s emergency order. The order, filed in mid-May, extended restrictions on in-person meals Walz ordered in March. Schiffler posted on social media: “We will open our doors on Monday, May 18â¦ we can’t wait to see you,” with the hashtags “#landofthefreebecauseofthebrave” and #togetherwestand. “
On the day the bars were due to open, Ellison’s office obtained a temporary restraining order to end them and threatened penalties of up to $ 25,000 per violation. In response, Schiffler told a crowd of several hundred supporters outside his Albany bar that, on the advice of his lawyer, he would not defy the order.
When a temporary injunction barred the opening of Shady’s in violation of the order, the restaurant filed counterclaims against the governor and other state officials, all of which were dismissed as a result of the opposition from the attorney general’s office. In August, the attorney general’s office obtained summary judgment on his claims and was allowed to seek fees for his litigation costs.
Under a consent judgment filed in Stearns County, Shady’s will pay the state $ 30,000. The money will go into the general state fund and not the attorney general’s office, according to a press release.
Shady’s settlement follows a similar case in Polk County, where Ellison’s office obtained a consent judgment requiring Boardwalk Bar and Grill to pay $ 25,000 for violations of the Emergency Executive Order. -99 issued last November. Boardwalk will also see its alcohol and food and beverage licenses suspended for 30 days under separate regulations with the state’s public safety and health departments.
In December 2020, a Polk County court ordered Boardwalk to close and the Department of Health ordered the restaurant to cease and desist. It has opened in defiance of local law enforcement, with owner Jane Moss protesting that restaurants cannot survive financially when they are closed. She added that restaurants across the river in North Dakota, which did not have the same mandates, were open and “doing well.”
At the time, COVID rates were high in Polk County, and North Dakota had the highest rate of COVID cases per capita in the country.
The attorney general filed a lawsuit in December, winning a temporary court injunction.
“The vast majority of restaurants and businesses in the state have followed the governor’s orders: they put the health and safety of their customers and their community before their profits, and I thank them for that,” said Ellison in a statement. “They should not face unfair and illegal competition from other companies just for doing the right thing. We remain committed to holding entities that put public safety at risk.”