December 11, 2020
State officials take enforcement actions to protect public from COVID-19
Lawsuits filed against two restaurants operating in violation of executive order, while third restaurant has license revoked and faces $9,500 penalty
On the same day Minnesota announced 3,773 new COVID-19 cases and 94 additional COVID-19 deaths, state officials announced enforcement actions against three restaurants operating in violation of an executive order designed to prevent more illnesses and deaths in the state.
Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-99 on November 18, 2020. The executive order included a provision that requires bars and restaurants to remain closed for on-premises dining until December 18, at 11:59 p.m. The executive order was issued at a time of rapid acceleration in the spread of COVID-19 across Minnesota and sought to protect Minnesotans while also preventing hospitals and health care systems from becoming overwhelmed by the surge in cases. While the vast majority of Minnesota businesses have complied with the executive order, a small number have not done so.
On December 10, after determining the Boardwalk Bar and Grill of East Grand Forks, Minn., had been open and operating in violation of Executive Order 20-99, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) served the restaurant with a cease and desist order, ordering it to close. Nevertheless, the restaurant publicly stated that it planned to remain open to the public for on-premises dining. Subsequently, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit and motion for a temporary restraining order to prohibit the restaurant from remaining open. The Polk County District Court granted the Attorney General’s motion for a temporary restraining order Friday afternoon.
Also today, MDH, with the assistance of the Attorney General's Office, filed a lawsuit against Havens Garden, a restaurant in Lynd, Minn., which has also stayed open for on-premises service. MDH had served Havens Garden with a cease and desist order on Wednesday morning. The court action filed today seeks a court-ordered injunction.
MDH also revoked the license of a third restaurant with a history of non-compliance. Iron Waffle, located outside Nisswa in Crow Wing County, had been the subject of multiple complaints forwarded to MDH alleging violations of employee masking requirements contained in Executive Order 20-81. MDH regulatory staff tried to work with the business operators to inform them of the requirements and bring them into compliance. When those efforts failed, MDH issued a cease and desist order on August 6. The establishment closed briefly and then reopened in non-compliance.
MDH issued an Administrative Penalty Order on September 24, to which the establishment did not respond. Following that, MDH sent a letter indicating that due to non-compliance and unresponsiveness, they were now assessed a penalty of $9,500 and their license would be revoked if they did not come in to compliance. MDH staff inspected the establishment on December 5 and found it was allowing on-site consumption in violation of Executive Order 20-99. The department revoked the facility’s license on December 9, with the $9,500 penalty still due.
“We work with regulated facilities to bring them into compliance and we consider regulatory or legal action only as a last resort,” said MDH Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff. “Most Minnesotans and Minnesota businesses are doing their best to follow best practices and do what’s in their power to help slow down the spread of the virus. Consistent enforcement is an important fairness issue for the vast majority of businesses that are following COVID-19-related protocols. It’s also important to minimize the spread of this virus, which has already sickened and killed far too many of our friends, neighbors and loved ones.”