Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison took legal action to stop a restaurant owner who planned to reopen for business before Governor Tim Walz’s shutdown expires.
Kris Schiffler owns all six locations of Shady’s Hometown Tavern. He says that if he doesn’t reopen, he may soon end up broke and homeless along with his employees who cannot afford to go without income for the full 77 days of Walz’s shutdowns, slated to end June 1.
“I can end up broke and on the street, just like 163 employees of mine are going to do the same thing in a little bit here if we don’t get operating,” Schiffler says, according to WCCO.
However, Ellison apparently has no compassion for Schiffler’s situation. The state AG published a press release over the weekend that announced legal action against both Shady’s and Schiffler personally and on Monday a court honored Ellison’s request to prevent Shady’s from reopening.
“The attorney general has just called, and they shut us down” an emotional Schiffler announced to a crowd of supporters waiting to eat at one of his restaurants. “Our attorney has advised us not to open the door,” he said.
BREAKING: Shady’s bar owner in Albany just tells large crowd he can’t open as he planned at noon. Says lawyers have advised him not to contest the Attorney General’s demands here. pic.twitter.com/EdHPWf9AsR
— Paul Blume (@PaulBlume_FOX9) May 18, 2020
“My office has the duty to enforce the law and the Governor’s order… I take that duty seriously,” says Ellison.
According to Ellison’s complaint, the state “has personal jurisdiction over Defendants because they have violated or threatened to violate Executive Order 20-56.” This appears to indicate that even if Schiffler doesn’t serve a single customer, the mere “threat” of resuming business was enough grounds for legal action.
Ellison also says he’s prepared to issue each Shady’s location its own $25,000 fine every day with no limit if they do in fact decide to reopen in defiance of the state.
“We received a phone call from the Attorney General’s office yesterday, Friday, May 15th, informing us if we were to continue our plans to open and operate our six bars & restaurants, we could be faced with a $25,000 fine per location, per day with no maximum amount of times we could be issued the fine,” Schiffler reports via a GoFundMe account created in his benefit.
Republicans in the Minnesota State House questioned Ellison’s legal ability to impose such severe fines via an open letter to the AG, released Sunday.
Meanwhile, generous Minnesotans contributed nearly $200,000 in a single day via GoFundMe to assist Schiffler with impending legal fees.
Should the small business owner reopen, he also faces potential criminal charges, fines and licencing issues brought about by law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction over his six establishments. However, the Stearns County Sheriff Steve Soyka said Sunday night that he does not plan to enforce Walz’s economic shutdown orders, marking at least one of Schiffler’s locations safe from local legal action.
Walz originally ordered resturants to close their doors on March 17, a shutdown that was only intended to last for 10 days. However, now that days have stretched into months via a series of extensions to the governor’s executive orders, a growing number of local small businesses have been forced to close forever. Barring the possibility of another extension, Walz’s current shutdown orders are slated to last 77 days— that’s over 20% of 2020.