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Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville
Patrons fill Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville on Dec. 16 as Gov. Tim Walz’s address is broadcast on television. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

Bar Buzz: Two bars buzzed, sued for violating executive orders

Two drinking-and-dining establishments were sued Thursday for violating the governor’s emergency executive orders.

The Attorney General’s Office said that two Minnesota taverns — one in Dakota County, the other in Mille Lacs County — are accused of violating Gov. Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-99, which recently was extended to Jan. 10.

The revised order eases some restrictions on gyms, organized sports and private gatherings, but it left November’s ban on on-premises consumption in place. About 150 establishments publicly pledged to open on Dec. 16, regardless of the governor’s directives.

Two of those — the Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville and Neighbors on the Rum in Princeton — must now face judges.

Both businesses took to social media saying they would defy the governor’s orders by opening for indoor dining and beverage consumption. Both carried out those pledges, according to the AG’s office.

According to the complaint against Neighbors on the Rum, Princeton Police went to the establishment Wednesday, accompanied by two Minnesota Department of Health employees. Inside, the officer reported, 40 to 50 individuals were seated at tables and the bar.

“When the Princeton Police informed Neighbors that continuing to operate as they were would violate Executive Order 20-99, a Neighbors representative indicated that Neighbors would continue to open for on-premises consumption,” the complaint said.

An investigator from Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office got the same response, the complaint says.

However, John Stiles, Ellison’s deputy chief of staff, said just before deadline Thursday that Neighbors subsequently closed its doors voluntarily.

The suit against the business remains active, he said, but for the time being, no restraining order motion against the Princeton business has been filed.

The story is different at Alibi’s, which continues to defy the order despite being sued, Stiles said. A restraining order motion was filed Thursday in Dakota County District Court against the Lakeville business to accompany the lawsuit, Stiles said, but a judge had yet ruled on it at press time.

The complaint against Alibi’s appears to rely heavily on social media postings and a GoFundMe page, created on Dec. 2 by the restaurant’s co-owner Lisa Zarza to cover legal fees and fines. As of this writing, the site had raised $615 toward a $10,000 goal.

The Alibi’s complaint also quotes a Zarza interview with the Star Tribune newspaper. She told a reporter there that she intended to keep serving until 2 a.m., her normal closing time. If authorities tried stop her, she said, “You know what? We’ll see them in court.”

Both businesses face a single count of violating the governor’s executive order. They also both face fines of up to $25,000 per violation and could be on the hook for court fee and attorney and investigative costs.

The complaints both seek court a declaration that the businesses violated the executive order and request injunctions to prevent further violations.

The AG’s office previously sued a gym, two restaurants and a rodeo for violating the governor’s social gathering restrictions. The office also represents the Minnesota Department of Health in a Dec. 11 suit against the Haven’s Garden restaurant in Lynd. A judge slapped a restraining order on that business on Dec. 12.

“We understand that during the holiday season lots of people like to go out and spend money,” Stiles said Wednesday, before the two latest suits were filed.

“So we understand that some of the bars and restaurants can make a disproportionate amount of money during that season,” he said. “But this is what the science and the data are saying we need to do.”

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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