Amusement industry sues Walz for bar and restaurant restrictions

“This is not a political issue. It’s a business issue," a MOMA board member said.

Scott Koecheler speaks at a press conference (screenshot via Open Up Minnesota Facebook)

An amusement operations organization sued Gov. Tim Walz and the state of Minnesota for the current curfew and capacity limits restricting bars and restaurants, their main business partners.

Minnesota Operators of Music and Amusements is an organization formed to serve the amusement industry by directing arcades, darts, pool, and similar forms of entertainment for bars, restaurants, bowling alleys, hotels, resorts, and other entertainment venues. MOMA represents over 3,000 restaurants and bars in Minnesota.

Dan Lieberman, board member of MOMA, said at a press conference Thursday that 30% of the jobs in this industry have been lost due to the governor’s restrictions spanning the last year.

“Unlike other industries, MOMA members can’t do takeout, delivery, or sell our products online,” Lieberman said. “Employees have had the disruption to their lives of being furloughed, hired back, and furloughed again.”

“This is not a political issue. It’s a business issue,” he said, noting this lawsuit was MOMA’s last resort.

According to Open Up Minnesota, MOMA’s lawsuit asks for the immediate elimination of all curfews on bars and restaurants in the form of a temporary restraining order until the case is heard. MOMA estimates the curfew currently decreases business in its industry by 15-20%.

MOMA’s lawsuit also asks for “equal protection currently afforded retailers,” a plan from the state that specifies when “capacity and curfew restrictions will be relaxed and eventually lifted,” as well as monetary damages.

Scott Koecheler, co-owner of Bogart’s Entertainment Center in Apple Valley, noted at the press conference the difference in rules for “big box” retailers like Target and Walmart, which have been allowed to stay open with minimal restrictions and almost no capacity limits.

“Many of the big box stores were able to operate and, in fact, flourish during this time,” Koecheler said. “We need these restrictions reduced. We need the opportunity to run our business and survive.”

MOMA believes the decision to restrict bars and restaurants was “misguided” and “crippling.”

“The decision to close restaurants and bars between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. was made without citing any data demonstrating that the risk of COVID exposure increases during this time,” Lieberman said.

Zero COVID-19 cases have been confirmed to come from people playing billiards, darts, or arcade games in bars or restaurants, the organization said.

“The capacity limits limit us the ability to survive,” Koecheler said.