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State of Minnesota enforcement authority and penalties for violations of Executive Orders

 

January 11, 2021



Attorney General’s Office

Enforcement authority

• Executive Order 20-99, as modified and extended by 20-103, grants the following enforcement authority to the Attorney General: “… the Attorney General, as well as city and county attorneys, may investigate and seek any civil relief available pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 2020, section 8.31, for violations or threatened violations of this Executive Order, including but not limited to injunctive relief, civil penalties in an amount to be determined by the court, up to $25,000 per occurrence, costs of investigation and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, and other equitable relief as determined by the court in accordance with section 8.31.”

• Under Minnesota Statutes section 8.31, the Attorney General “… shall investigate violations of the law of this state respecting unfair, discriminatory, and other unlawful practices in business, commerce, or trade” (subd. 1). It provides that “[o]n becoming satisfied that any of those laws has been or is being violated, or is about to be violated, the attorney general shall be entitled, on behalf of the state; (a) to sue for and have injunctive relief in any court of competent jurisdiction against any such violation or threatened violation without abridging the penalties provided by law; and (b) to sue for and recover for the state, from any person who is found to have violated any of the laws referred to in subdivision 1, a civil penalty, in an amount to be determined by the court, not in excess of $25,000” (subd. 3). It also provides that the Attorney General can obtain equitable relief, which includes restitution and/or disgorgement and its costs and reasonable attorney’s fees for violations (subd. 3a).

Enforcement actions under 20-99, as modified and extended by 20-103

The Attorney General’s office has directly brought ten enforcement actions under Executive Order 20-99, as modified and extended by EO 20-103. (New actions in the last week highlighted in bold.)

• Carlson Event Center: The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against Carlson Event Center in Winnebago, Minn., on Dec. 30, 2020, for planning an indoor event in in violation of Executive Order 20-99, as modified and extended by EO 20-103. The office won a temporary restraining order against the Carlson Event Center on Dec. 31, 2020. After the issuance of the temporary restraining order the planned indoor event was cancelled.

• St. Patrick’s Tavern: The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against St. Patrick’s Tavern in New Prague, Minn., on Dec. 21, 2020, for operating inside on-premises dining in violation of Executive Order 20-99, as modified and extended by EO 20-103. The office won a temporary restraining order against St. Patrick’s Tavern on Dec. 23, 2020 and a temporary injunction on Dec. 30, 2020.

• Pour House: The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against Pour House in Clark’s Grove, Minn., on Dec. 21, 2020, for operating inside on-premises dining in violation of Executive Order 20-99, as modified and extended by EO 20-103. The office won a temporary restraining order against Pour House on Dec. 28, 2020.

• The Interchange: The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against The Interchange, Albert Lea, Minn., on Dec. 21, 2020, for operating inside on-premises dining in violation of Executive Order 20-99, as modified and extended by EO 20-103. The office won a temporary restraining order against The Interchange on Dec. 23, 2020. The court found The Interchange in civil contempt on Jan. 8, 2021, ordered immediate compliance with the executive orders, and imposed a fine of $3,000 a day for each day it remains open in defiance of the court’s order.

• Cornerstone Café: The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against Cornerstone Cafe in Monticello, Minn., on Dec. 18, 2020, for operating inside on-premises dining in violation of Executive Order 20-99. The office won a temporary restraining order against Cornerstone Cafe on Dec. 22, 2020.

• Cork: The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against Cork in Anoka, Minn., on Dec. 18, 2020, for operating inside on-premises dining in violation of Executive Order 20-99.

• Alibi Drinkery: The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville, Minn., on Dec. 17, 2020, for operating inside on-premises dining in violation of Executive Order 20-99. The office won a temporary restraining order against Alibi Drinkery on Dec. 18, 2020, and a temporary injunction on Dec. 31, 2020. The court found Alibi in civil contempt on Jan. 7, 2021, and imposed a fine of $3,000 a day for each day it remains open for indoor, on-premises dining in violation of its temporary injunction.

• Neighbors on the Rum: The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against Neighbors on the Rum in Princeton, Minn., on Dec. 17, 2020, for operating inside on-premises dining in violation of Executive Order 20-99. Neighbors on the Rum agreed to comply with the Executive Order after the lawsuit was filed. If it operates in violation of the Executive Order, the office will promptly seek appropriate remedies from the court.

• Boardwalk Bar and Grill: The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against Boardwalk Bar and Grill in East Grand Forks, Minn., on Dec. 11, 2020, for operating on-premises dining in violation of Executive Order 20-99. The office won a temporary restraining order the same day and a temporary injunction on Dec. 22, 2020.

• Plainview Wellness Center: The Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against Plainview Wellness Center in Plainview, Minn., for remaining open to customers in violation of Executive Order 20-99. The office won a temporary injunction on Dec. 2, 2020.

• In addition to the direct enforcement actions brought above under Executive Order 20-99, the Attorney General’s office also represents the Minnesota Department of Health in its Dec. 11, 2020, lawsuit against Haven’s Garden in Lynd, Minn., for continuing to operate on-premises dining and entertainment in violation of the order. MDH won a temporary restraining order against the establishment on Dec. 12 and a temporary injunction on Dec. 16, 2020.

Attorney General’s approach: Winning voluntary compliance

• Of the more than 900 establishments and events that the Attorney General’s office and its partners in the Departments of Health, Labor and Industry, and Public Safety — as well as local partners like regional health agencies, city and county attorneys, and local law enforcement agencies — have worked with in the past several months, they have succeeded in winning voluntary compliance with the executive orders in all but thirteen instances: The eleven lawsuits mentioned above and two from earlier in 2020.

Minnesota Department of Health

Enforcement authority

The Minnesota Department of Health’s Environmental Health Division is responsible for regulating restaurants among other facilities. The division uses the following tools, escalating through the list depending on each situation.

• Documenting inspection findings and writing orders for correction on inspection reports. This tool was used as the starting point for businesses violating previous EO requirements such as requiring the use of face coverings by employees or lack of a COVID plan but will not be used for EO 20-99 violations.

• 10-day letter – Functions as a notice of violation that outlines the alleged violations and warns of the risk of fines up to $10,000 and licensure action.

• Cease and Desist – An order for an establishment to close for up to 72 hours to gain compliance with an imminent public health threat. For businesses that continue to violate or indicate to us an intention to violate after the C&D is lifted, MDH can seek an injunction or temporary restraining order to extend the duration of the closure order.

• Administrative Penalty Order, monetary penalties and license suspension – Businesses that continue to violate EO requirements may be assessed a monetary penalty to a maximum of $10,000 and the license to operate may be suspended for an indeterminate amount of time.

• License revocation – Continued failure to comply may result in escalating the license suspension to a revocation.

Enforcement actions under 20-99, as modified and extended by 20-103

• Mamma Dee’s Green Lantern: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order and notice of licensure suspension Jan. 8 to Mamma Dee’s Green Lantern, in Brainerd, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Iron Waffle Coffee Company: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order Aug. 6 to Iron Waffle Coffee Company, in Nisswa, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic. When the Iron Waffle continued to violate executive orders even after it was served with the cease-and-desist order, MDH issued an administrative penalty order and a notice of license revocation. MDH won a temporary restraining order Dec. 18.

• Mission Tavern: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order, administrative penalty order and notice of license suspension Dec. 16 to Mission Tavern, in Merrifield, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Boardwalk Bar and Grill: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order Dec. 10 to Boardwalk Bar and Grill, in East Grand Forks, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic. MDH initiated the administrative penalty order process Dec. 11 and issued a notice of license suspension Dec. 22.

• The Interchange Wine and Coffee Bistro: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order Dec. 18 to Interchange Wine and Coffee Bistro, in Albert Lea, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic. MDH initiated the administrative penalty order process and issued a notice of license suspension Dec. 23.

• Alibi Drinkery: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order Dec. 17 to Alibi Drinkery, in Lakeville, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic. MDH initiated the administrative penalty order process Dec. 18 and issued a notice of license suspension Dec. 22.

• Pizza Depot: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order Dec. 18 to the Pizza Depot, in Becker, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic. MDH initiated the administrative penalty order process Dec. 18.

• Hooligan’s Lakeside: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order and initiated the administrative penalty order process Dec. 18 to Hooligan’s Lakeside, in Lake Park, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic. MDH issued a notice of license suspension Dec. 22.

• Havens Garden: MDH filed a lawsuit against Havens Garden in Lynd, Minn., for continuing to operate on-premises dining and entertainment in violation of a cease and desist order. MDH won a temporary restraining order against the establishment Dec. 12, and a temporary injunction Dec. 16. The district court issued a contempt order against the business Dec. 18.

• The Pour House Bar and Grill: MDH initiated the administrative penalty order process Dec. 21. MDH issued a cease-and-desist order and a notice of licensure suspension Dec. 22 to Pour House Bar and Grill, in Clark’s Grove, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Cornerstone Café: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order, a notice of licensure suspension and initiated the administrative penalty order process Dec. 22 to Cornerstone Cafe, in Monticello, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

• MB’s Little Gourmet Deli: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order and initiated the administrative penalty order process Dec. 22 to MB’s Little Gourmet Deli, in Virginia, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic. MDH issued a notice of license suspension Dec. 28.

• King Sparrow Coffee: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order, a notice of licensure suspension and initiated the administrative penalty order process Dec. 28 to King Sparrow Coffee, in Milaca, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Long Pine Store: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order, a notice of licensure suspension and initiated the administrative penalty order process Dec. 24 to Long Pine Store, in Pine City, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Jamieson’s on Main: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order, a notice of licensure suspension and initiated the administrative penalty order process Dec. 26 to Jamieson’s on Main, in Oslo, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Big Orv’s: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order, a notice of licensure suspension and initiated the administrative penalty order process Dec. 28 to Big Orv’s, in Adrian, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Joe’s Diner: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order, a notice of licensure suspension and initiated the administrative penalty order process Dec. 26 to Joe’s Diner, in East Grand Forks, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Patrick McGovern’s Pub: MDH initiated the administrative penalty order process and issued a notice of licensure suspension Dec. 28 to Patrick McGovern’s Pub, in St. Paul, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Norm’s Wayside: MDH issued a cease-and-desist order and a notice of licensure suspension Dec. 30 to Norm’s Wayside, in Buffalo, Minn., after determining the facility had violated executive orders designed to protect its employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minnesota Department of Public Safety

Enforcement authority

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division is responsible for regulating licensed liquor establishments to ensure compliance with the state liquor laws and rules. The division uses the following tools, escalating through the list depending on each situation.

• Any liquor licensee found to be in violation of EO-99 may be issued a misdemeanor citation for the violation.

• A second violation shall result in a 60-day liquor license suspension.

• A third or subsequent violation shall result in a five-year revocation of the liquor license and the subsequent revocation of the establishment’s retail identification card (buyer’s card).

Enforcement actions under 20-99, as modified and extended by 20-103

DPS-AGED notified Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville, Minn., and The Interchange in Albert Lea, Minn., that they now face a five-year liquor license revocation for ongoing and blatant violations of EO 20-99, as modified and extended by EO 20-103. Both establishments have continued to sell or advertise the sale of alcohol for indoor, on-premises consumption in violation of the executive orders. DPS-AGED previously advised these establishments that it intended to suspend their liquor licenses for 60 days, pending a hearing before an administrative law judge. The establishments were advised at that time that they would be notified of the intent to revoke their license for five years if there were further violations.

DPS-AGED has notified the following establishments that they face a 60-day suspension of their liquor licenses. Hearings before an administrative law judge have been scheduled.

• Cork, Anoka, Minn.

• Cornerstone, Monticello, Minn.

• The Pour House, Clarks Grove, Minn.

• Mission Tavern, Merrifield, Minn.

• Neighbors on the Rum, Princeton. Minn.

• Boardwalk Bar & Grill LLC (BBG), East Grand Forks, Minn.

Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry

Enforcement authority

• Minnesota OSHA (MNOSHA) has the authority to enforce MNOSHA Standards and MDH and CDC Guidelines that assure safe and healthful working conditions for Minnesota workers through on-site inspections and issuing citations for noncompliance.

• MNOSHA may issue citations, civil penalties, or closure orders to places of employment with unsafe or unhealthy conditions, and MNOSHA may penalize businesses that retaliate against employees who raise safety and health concerns.

Enforcement actions

For the time period starting in March through December 2020, MNOSHA has issued 144 citations for violations observed during COVID-19 related inspections.

Criminal penalty authority

• Executive Order 20-99 and 20-103 provides that “[a]n individual who willfully violates this Executive Order is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction must be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or by imprisonment for not more than 90 days.”

• Executive Order 20-99 and 20-103 also provides that “[a]ny business owner, manager, or supervisor who requires or encourages any of their employees, contractors, vendors, volunteers, or interns to violate this Executive Order is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and upon conviction must be punished by a fine not to exceed $3,000 or by imprisonment for not more than a year.”

• Authority to charge and prosecute criminal violations of the order lies with law enforcement and city or county attorneys.

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