Hastings restaurant fined $7,000 because one employee was wearing ‘non-compliant’ mask

“This is just excessive overreach by the Walz administration and another example of kicking bar and restaurant owners when they're down.”

Image from The Busted Nut Bar & Grill Facebook page.

A restaurant in Hastings, Minnesota, was fined $7,000 by the state because one employee was wearing a “non-compliant” face mask.

According to a press release from two Republican lawmakers, an undercover state employee visited The Busted Nut Bar & Grill on Aug. 22, followed by a visit from the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Aug. 27.

Following the OSHA visit, the restaurant was issued a $7,000 fine because one employee was spotted wearing a “non-compliant plastic mask,” said a press release from state Reps. Tony Jurgens and Dave Baker.

The legislators said no one at the restaurant was aware that the employee’s mask did not comply with state guidelines.

Both visits to the restaurant occurred before Gov. Tim Walz’s administration warned leaders in the hospitality industry about its plan to increase compliance checks.

“We owe it to establishments that are following the guidelines to address these issues of noncompliance,” said a letter sent to various hospitality groups.

The letter said teams from three different state agencies would be visiting “multiple establishments each weekend” to check for compliance with the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders.

More than 50 Republican lawmakers then asked the governor to “reevaluate his tone and approach,” accusing him of “weaponizing state agencies” against already-struggling businesses.

“This is just excessive overreach by the Walz administration and another example of kicking bar and restaurant owners when they’re down,” Jurgens said in a statement. “The Busted Nut is not a business that is thumbing its nose at COVID regulations. This is an example of a business that’s doing things the right way and trying to comply with the ever-changing rules in order to keep their employees and customers safe.”

The Walz administration previously claimed that its enforcement of state mandates would be “educational” in nature rather than punitive, Jurgens and Baker pointed out.

“Instead of following through on the educational promise, the agencies have leveled this business with excessive fines, $7,625 in total, which will take weeks if not months of operating at 50 percent capacity in order to pay it off,” Jurgens added.

Baker said the state needs to act as a partner in enforcement efforts, not an adversary, saying the “goal should continue to be education rather than punishment.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic and associated government-mandated closures have caused significant damage to the hospitality industry, causing many to close their doors already with hundreds more likely to close permanently in the coming months,” he said. “If bad actors are knowingly and flagrantly putting customers and employees at risk, they should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.”

The owner of The Busted Nut plans to appeal the fine.