Attorney General's office files three new enforcement actions against restaurants operating indoor on-premises dining illegally
St. Patrick’s Tavern in New Prague, Pour House in Clarks Grove, and The Interchange in Albert Lea put community at risk by violating ban on indoor on-premises dining intended to slow the spread of COVID-19
December 22, 2020
December 21, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that his office has filed lawsuits against three establishments — one against St. Patrick’s Tavern in New Prague, one against Pour House in Clarks Grove, and one against The Interchange in Albert Lea — that have been operating on-premises indoor dining in open violation of Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-99, a targeted dial-back of certain activities to halt the spread of COVID-19. Among the requirements of the executive order, as modified and extended by Executive Order 20-103, are that bars and restaurants must close for on-premises indoor dining until January 10, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.
St. Patrick’s Tavern had between 150 and 200 vehicles in its parking lot on December 18, 2020. Witnesses noted that St. Patrick’s Tavern was 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.
The State has received more than a dozen complaints about Pour House, including a report that noted the bar was operating at “max capacity.” Public social-media posts show patrons sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at the bar, and no face coverings worn by any employee or customer.
The Interchange announced on December 15, 2020, that it would open for “IN-DOOR DINING… in defiance of the governor’s order.” On December 17, The Interchange 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 restaurant was still open on December 19.
“There are 10,000 restaurants and 1,500 bars in Minnesota. By far the vast majority of them have served their communities by complying with the law all along. Unfortunately, a very small handful are threatening their customers, their workers, and their communities by refusing to comply and violating the law. Their insistence on violating the law is simply prolonging the pain of the pandemic for everyone,” Attorney General Ellison said.
“I thank the thousands of Minnesota bars and restaurants that have done the right thing and met their responsibility to their communities by continuing to follow the law: they deserve our thanks and our patronage, not unfair competition. I don’t enjoy using the enforcement tools I have available because I’d much prefer all establishments do the right thing on their own, but I will continue to use them when I have no other choice to protect Minnesotans from this deadly virus,” Attorney General Ellison concluded.
In its lawsuits against the restaurants, Attorney General Ellison’s office has asked the court to:
• Declare that defendants’ actions constitute violations of Executive Order 20-99;
• Stop anyone associated with these establishments from violating or threatening to violate the executive orders;
• Award restitution, disgorgement, or damages to the State;
• Impose civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation or threatened violation of the executive order;
• Award the State its costs; and
• Impose any other relief the court finds just.
Any and all fines the court may impose go to the State of Minnesota general fund, not the Attorney General’s Office.
Today’s lawsuits bring the total of enforcement actions the Attorney General’s office has filed against establishments violating Executive Order 20-99 — either under its own authority or on behalf of the Minnesota Department of Health — to ten.
Attorney General Ellison’s office continues to seek voluntary compliance from establishments threatening to violate or violating the ban on on-premises indoor dining. The Attorney General’s office and its partners in the Minnesota Departments of Health, Public Safety, and Labor and Industry have a range of enforcement tools at their disposal. As a last resort, the Attorney General’s office has the authority to file enforcement actions against establishments that refuse to comply with their responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Attorney General Ellison’s office has civil authority to enforce the terms of Executive Order 20-99 as extended by Executive Order 20-103 and seek relief if necessary. The Governor’s executive orders have the force and effect of law during the peacetime emergency.