Ellison to defiant restaurants: ‘People will get sick and die because of you’

"I don’t enjoy using the enforcement tools I have, but I will use them to hold violators accountable and keep Minnesotans safe."

Background: Alibi Drinkery/Facebook. Right: Keith Ellison/Minnesota Attorney General's Office

Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that he will hold accountable restaurants and bars that are opening for dine-in service this week in violation of the governor’s orders.

Ellison released a statement regarding Gov. Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-99, which orders a “Four Week Dial Back” to “slow the spread of COVID-19.” Ellison said in response to the dozens of Minnesota businesses violating the order, “My job and my duty is to protect Minnesotans. People like to ask, what is the Attorney General going to do? What they should be asking is, what is coronavirus going to do?”

He stated that COVID-19 does not care “who you are or where you live … You’re not immune from it and your loved ones aren’t either.”

“To those few businesses that are choosing to openly violate the executive order, I say this is the wrong way to go. I don’t enjoy using the enforcement tools I have, but I will use them to hold violators accountable and keep Minnesotans safe,” said Ellison.

He thanked those businesses that are complying and deemed them undeserving of “unfair competition from those who are not doing their part.”

Ellison’s statement claims that in “only a small handful of instances” has his office found an establishment to be in open violation of the governor’s orders. They are working with the state and law enforcement “to gather evidence of violations of the executive order and will actively pursue enforcement actions where violations have taken place.”

His office also released a list compiling all of the “enforcement tools” they have at their disposal to force establishments to comply with the executive order.

A statement from Ellison released with the list asks businesses to comply with the orders voluntarily, and if they don’t, Ellison declares, “You’re putting people at risk. People will get sick and die because of you. Not only from COVID-19: if someone has a heart attack or a stroke or a car accident and dies because they can’t get an ICU bed that’s being used by someone who got COVID at your establishment, or got it from someone who got it at your establishment, that death is also on you.”

Hundreds of Minnesota businesses have banded together to create the “Reopen Minnesota Coalition,” a group that has a Facebook page and a GoFundMe to raise awareness and funds for expected legal fees.

The state has suspended the liquor license for 60 days of a restaurant called the Boardwalk Bar & Grill in East Grand Forks, claiming any further violations will result in a five-year liquor license suspension. The restaurant has also been sued by Ellison.

The Department of Health has fined one Nisswa restaurant $9,500 for “allowing on-site consumption” in violation of the governor’s order. Ellison has also sued Larvita McFarquhar, a single mother and restaurant owner in Lynd who has refused to comply with the shutdown.