In Minnesota, a Showdown Between the State and a Bar

Minnesota has sued Alibi Drinkery and ordered it to stop serving patrons indoors
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2020 12:08 PM CST
Minnesota Sues Bar That Refuses to Close
Patrons packed every table at Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville, Minn., on Wednesday. Lisa Monet Zarza, owner of the bar, is part of a group of businesses that reopened Wednesday in defiance of Gov. Walz's order closing bars and restaurants through Dec. 18.   (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

Another high-profile fight is taking place between a business trying to operate as usual amid the pandemic despite orders to curtail services. This time it's in Minnesota, where Democratic Gov. Tim Walz this week ordered bars and restaurants to cease offering indoor dining through Jan. 11. Coverage:

  • The bar: Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville is refusing to comply with the governor's order, reports the Star Tribune. Patrons, most of them maskless, continued to pack the place Wednesday and Thursday. "At the end of the day, all we want is our business open," says co-owner Lisa Monet Zarza. "People are out in numbers because they want to support us."
  • The threat: State Attorney General Keith Ellison sued the bar Thursday, reports KARE 11. The bar "proudly announced its dangerous decision to increase the risk of community spread of COVID-19 in its community, recording multiple videos of its violations and promising to pack more people into enclosed indoor spaces in a period where the virus is still spreading," says a statement from Ellison's office, per the Star Tribune. Alibi faces the suspension of its liquor license and fines of up to $25,000 per violation. A second establishment sued by the state went back to curbside service Thursday.

  • Reaction: Zarza tells the Washington Post that the governor's order violates the Constitution and amounts to discrimination against bars and their staffs. "We are not asking for special treatment," she says. "We are asking for fair treatment." Customer Gary Shade tells KSTP: "We want to let freedom ring. ... I'm just tired of this stuff. We've been on lockdown of some type for nine months. Enough's enough." Ellison, on the other hand, whose mother died of COVID, says Alibi's decision is on par with "driving 105 miles an hour in a residential neighborhood."
  • Now what: The attorney general on Thursday filed a temporary restraining order to force Alibi to comply, but the bar appears intent on serving patrons indoors until the matter is decided at a pending hearing. Alibi is one of about 150 businesses that have formed the ReOpen Minnesota Coalition to push back against what they view as overly strict state rules. Another tavern owner tells KSTP that allowing service on outdoor patios doesn't do much to help, given Minnesota's frigid winters.
  • Numbers: On Thursday, the state reported 2,775 new COVID cases, for a total of more than 389,000, and 83 more deaths, for a total of 4,658, per the AP. The growth rate in overall cases has slowed a bit, but the seven-day rolling average of deaths in the state has risen from 45 per day to 67 per day over the last two weeks.
(More Minnesota stories.)

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