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Minnesota bar sued by state after refusing to close: ‘We’ll see them in court’

A sports bar in Minnesota is challenging the state’s coronavirus lockdown by continuing to offer indoor food and drink service. Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville knowingly resisted Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order that banned indoor dining, and now the sports bar is being sued by the state.

On Wednesday, the Democratic governor “allowed” bars and restaurants to serve customers outdoors, but the freezing winter weather in Minnesota is not exactly ideal for outside dining. Indoor dining has been outlawed in Minnesota since mid-November and is banned until at least Jan. 11.

Alibi Drinkery has flouted the indoor dining ban, and served customers inside their establishment. On Thursday, the bar wrote on their Facebook page: “OPEN TODAY. COME IN FOR FOOD AND DRINKS!”

Now, the state of Minnesota is suing Alibi Drinkery for disobeying the COVID-19 restrictions. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Thursday that he filed lawsuits against Alibi Drinkery and the Neighbors on the Rum restaurant in Princeton for defying Walz’s executive order. Ellison is also asking a judge for a temporary restraining order to shut down Alibi Drinkery.

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Ellison said the lawsuits seek civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation, according to KARE. Ellison said his office would “actively pursue more enforcement actions where violations have taken place.”

“The businesses we’re holding accountable today know what they need to do to comply with the law and instead they’re flouting it,” Ellison said in a statement. “I don’t enjoy using the enforcement tools I have, but it’s my job to protect Minnesotans and I will use them to hold violators accountable and keep Minnesotans safe.”

On Wednesday, the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division announced that it “intends to suspend the liquor licenses of these establishments for 60 days, pending a hearing before an administrative law judge.”

Lisa Zarza, co-owner of the Alibi Drinkery, knows that she is in for an uphill battle, but said she’s ready for it.

“I put a big fat bullseye on our back for a reason because I know they’re going to come after every single business anyways, and I wanted to make sure I had thousands of supporters here,” she told KARE on Wednesday.

“We put our heart and soul into Alibi,” Zarza said. “I’ve been in the industry for almost 30 years and this was always my dream to own my own business and to own my own restaurant and it finally came true.”

“I believe people held out hope, that he wasn’t going to do this to us again, and he did,” Zarza said of Walz banning indoor dining this week. “(Wednesday’s) announcement is going to break down any hope people had.”

“You know what? We’ll see them in court,” Zarza proclaimed.

Zarza said she had to temporarily lay off 45 employees because of the coronavirus restrictions.

Alibi Drinkery and Neighbors on the Rum are part of the ReOpen Minnesota coalition, a group of dozens of business owners defying the lockdown orders.

After the announcement of being sued by the state, Neighbors on the Rum said on Thursday they would return to curbside service and takeout.

“I wasn’t going to push it with today. Fair is fair. We made our stand. We gave our one-day deal. We’re probably going to have some repercussions because of it. But I’m prepared for those,” said owner Joe Holtz.

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, a Republican, argued that restaurants should be able to open up safely by following CDC guidelines, including wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.

“We’re here to bring hope,” Gazelka said. “And it’s hope that they can make it through this, and hope that we can convince the governor and the attorney general that they have to relent.”

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