The Minnesota Department of Health informed a restaurant owner this week that her license will be revoked for defying the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders, even though a local health board already reversed its decision to strip the business owner of her license to operate.
Haven’s Garden owner Larvita McFarquhar of Lynd, Minnesota, has been embroiled in a legal battle with the state for two months because of her refusal to comply with Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders.
“I am not backing down. Period,” she told Alpha News Friday.
Bars and restaurants were closed for in-person service in Minnesota from Nov. 20 to Jan. 10, but McFarquhar kept her establishment open for much of that time. As a result, she was sued by Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, court-ordered to close her restaurant, and then found in contempt of court when she still refused to shut her doors.
As punishment, she was fined $250 per day for each day she remained open between Dec. 18 and Jan. 10.
Meanwhile, Southwest Health and Human Services, a local health agency, suspended her food service license in early December, but then unanimously voted to rescind the suspension just a week later.
McFarquhar received a letter from Commissioner Malcolm Wednesday — 10 days after the governor’s ban on in-person dining was partially lifted — informing her that “the license for Haven’s Garden will be revoked.”
“Due to the serious and repeated nature of the violations noted above, and in accordance with Minnesota Statutes, Section 144.99, subdivision 9, the license to operate Haven’s Garden in Lynd, Minnesota, will be revoked. Since a license to operate a food and beverage service establishment is required under Minnesota Statutes, section 157.16, you are required to discontinue operating the establishment no later than 20 days after receipt of this letter,” said Malcolm.
On Tuesday, McFarquhar’s attorney, Nathan Hansen, appealed the contempt judgment and the underlying temporary injunction issued against his client.
“But while the Governor and Commissioner were bringing the power of the State down on Appellant and similar restaurants, they were expressly permitting another class of restaurants to continue operating: those owned by tribal members or tribal governments on tribal land,” states the appeal.
“Indeed, the Governor’s executive orders, combined with the State’s draconian enforcement efforts, granted those favored restaurants a state-sanctioned monopoly on in-person dining service, while punishing Appellant with contempt,” it continues.
During a court hearing Friday morning, McFarquhar said “we were all supposed to be ‘in this together,’ yet so many government workers and white-collar jobs can be done online while brick and mortar businesses get crushed.”
“For Gov. Walz to want to shackle me in the chains of slavery, dependent on the government to tell me when I can or can’t work, when I can or can’t feed my children, is again an abuse of power by our governor,” she said. “Yet, here I am, a single mom and business owner willing and ready to serve anyone without discrimination yet I am being punished by government regulations that are so severe they shut down my entire business.”
McFarquhar said she plans to appeal the license suspension.