As we’ve reported here previously, a number of restaurant and bar owners around the country have begun reopening for normal service in defiance of government shutdown mandates. That trend has been showing up in Minnesota as well, where up to a dozen eateries and public houses have decided to risk the wrath of the government rather than going bankrupt and sending all of their workers to the unemployment lines. But unlike the situation in Pennsylvania linked above, where there’s something of a stalemate going on, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has been busy filing lawsuits against the owners and hitting them with massive fines. (CBS Minnesota)
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Monday announced that three more lawsuits have been filed against restaurants operating indoor dining in violation of the current COVID-19 restrictions.
According to Ellison, the lawsuits include St. Patrick’s Tavern in New Prague, Pour House in Clarks Grove and The Interchange in Albert Lea.
Ellison says St. Patrick’s Tavern had 150 to 200 vehicles in its parking lot on Dec. 18 and witnesses reported the establishment was standing room only, with it “packed inside so tightly that it was difficult to move around inside.”
It appears that Minnesota has more than its fair share of social distancing snitches because the CBS report indicates that police were answering complaints from locals about the packed nature of the three establishments that Ellison filed suit against this week. At first glance, I’ll grant you that some of the conditions sound alarming in terms of social distancing. Reports concerning the Pour House in Clarks Grove allege that the bar was at maximum capacity and neither the staff nor the customers were wearing face masks.
Ellison described these operations as, “threatening their customers, their workers, and their communities by refusing to comply and violating the law.”
Perhaps, but I keep coming back to the same two points when considering these ongoing confrontations. First, pretty much every one of these businesses has already sunk huge amounts of money into making changes that would allow them to comply with government restrictions. Despite that, they keep getting hit with orders to shut down entirely, reopen at limited, unprofitable capacity, and then completely shut down again. Their employees have been alternating between being on limited hours or simply unemployed to the point where their heads must be spinning. The situation was always going to reach a breaking point and that point appears to have arrived.
The other factor is once again a personal choice. Every one of the customers in those bars and restaurants was able to see the number of people in the establishment and, in some cases, the lack of masks and other PPE. Nobody was forcing them to go out to dinner or for a few beers with friends. Don’t they bear some of the responsibility for their own decisions? We’re not talking about a public school full of children. These are all adults.
Granted, you can make the argument that if one hundred people in a crowded bar become infected, they will take that infection home to their families and possibly other members of the community. But is that the fault of the restaurant owner or the diners who chose to risk leaving their homes? The fact is that people are reaching the end of their ropes after nearly a year of isolation and our business owners are going down for the count at this point. I don’t think additional massive fines are the answer to anyone’s problems.
In the meantime, South Dakota Governor Krisi Noem has come up with a different solution. She’s inviting all of the bar and restaurant owners to her state with a promise not to shut them down. (NY Post)
“Come to South Dakota! We respect your rights. We won’t shut you down,” the Republican governor wrote Monday on Twitter.
Noem, 49, is widely seen as a Republican rising star and is an outspoken advocate against lockdowns.
Noem, who also posted this week a photo of herself using a flamethrower, invited bar owners to move after neighboring state Minnesota’s Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison sued bars that defied Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s pandemic restrictions on indoor dining.
Come to South Dakota! We respect your rights. We won’t shut you down. https://t.co/FDaRj92Qmu
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) December 21, 2020
As a bonus, here’s an Instagram picture of Governor Noem with a flamethrower.
A generous offer, but if all of the customers don’t follow them and move to South Dakota as well, will they be able to stay in business?