Facing possible fines and jail time, a Minnesota restaurant owner plans to remain open in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz’s COVID-19 executive orders.
As of Saturday, bars and restaurants statewide are prohibited from offering in-person service under Walz’s latest executive action.
“No person in power has the authority to shut down a business for no reason, and pick and choose who can stay open and who cannot. For me, it’s [about] taking a stand. We always want other people to do things, but it’s time that we the people stand up and say, ‘no, we’re not going to agree with these outrageous demands,’” Larvita McFarquhar, owner of Havens Garden in Lynd, Minnesota, told Alpha News.
In a video posted to Facebook last week, McFarquhar announced that Havens Garden plans to host live music and an open mic night on Friday. She was then contacted by a deputy with the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office, who asked McFarquhar if she was aware of the governor’s new order and told her she could face fines and jail time for remaining open.
“I said, ‘yes, I’m aware, but are you aware that the governor’s mandate is not a law? The governor does not pass laws and you are supposed to uphold the Constitution. You don’t work for the governor, you work for us,’” she told Alpha News.
She said the sheriff’s office also called her DJ and threatened to arrest him if he performs during Friday’s event.
Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office intervened Monday, according to a letter sent to McFarquhar and obtained by Alpha News.
“Emergency Executive Order 20-99 empowers this Office to investigate and take action against businesses or persons that are operating or threatening to operate in violation of the Order,” Assistant Attorney General Noah Lewellen said in the letter.
“As the chief legal officer for the State of Minnesota, the Attorney General has authority to file a civil enforcement action seeking injunctive relief and civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each and every occurrence Executive Order 20-99 is violated, as well as its attorney’s fees and costs,” he continued.
Walz’s executive order further states that any “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.”
Lewellen asked McFarquhar to respond to his letter by 5:00 p.m. Monday, requesting that she state in writing that she “will not remain open for on-site consumption or for entertainment activities like the planned open mic night, and that you will fully comply with Executive Order 20-99.”
“To the extent Havens Garden does not comply and violates Executive Order 20-99, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office reserves the right to bring an enforcement action pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 8.31,” he concluded his letter.
As of now, McFarquhar said she plans to proceed with the event, but warned that patrons could each face a $1,000 fine.
“I’m not going to give up my liberties, I’m not going to teach my daughters to give up their liberties, and I want them to learn how to fight,” she said. “If I’m not that example — which is very hard for me — who else is going to do it?”
McFarquhar said the last several months have “been horrible” financially, noting that small business owners are already “struggling as it is.”
“These are the things that you have to struggle with. I’m struggling to keep my lights on,” she added. “The thing that makes me mad during this whole thing is we still have to pay our bills. I have to still pay taxes on the building.”
The government can order McFarquhar to close her doors, but “they still want their taxes” and can put a lien on her property if she doesn’t pay her bills, she said.
“The bills that were there before — they don’t go away because we’re not open. They’re still there and I still have to pay them,” McFarquhar said Monday. “Then to have the threat above that. That’s the worst part.”
Alpha News confirmed with the Lyon County Sheriff’s Department that a deputy contacted McFarquhar.