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St Paul (KROC AM News) - Two bars in southeast Minnesota are facing a suspension of their liquor licenses as the state continues to crack down on businesses that defy the current Covid-related shutdown order.

The Minnesota Department of Public has notified three more establishments that they face a 60-day suspension of their liquor licenses for ongoing violations by selling alcohol for on-premises consumption.

The Interchange, Albert Lea – DPS was notified that The Interchange failed to comply with a Cease and Desist Order issued by the Minnesota Department of Health on Dec. 16. On Dec. 18, DPS agents observed the establishment open for on-premises consumption of food and alcohol, again violating EO-99.

This is a portion of the letter sent to the owner:
On December 18, agents observed the establishment open for on-premises
consumption of food and alcohol, again violating EO-99.

A sign on the door stated:
As the owner of The Interchange, I have decided to open for IN-DOOR
DINING in defiance of the governor’s orders. This is our only chance of
possible surviving the governor’s illegal shutdowns.
According to the 14th Amendment, as a United States citizen I have the
right to life, liberty, and property. This means I have the right to legally
operate my business and earn a living doing so.
Please enter at your own risk.

The Pour House, Clarks Grove - On Dec. 18, DPS agents observed The Pour House open for business with a red neon “BEER” sign glowing. Agents observed patrons inside consuming beverages in glass bottles consistent with beer in violation of EO-99. The Albert Lea Director of Public Safety also received notice the same day that the establishment was at “full capacity.”

Cornerstone, Monticello - DPS was notified that on Dec. 16, Minnesota Attorney General’s Office investigators observed the Cornerstone open for business. The AGO then sent a letter informing the establishment of the consequences of continuing to violate EO-99. DPS received information that Cornerstone again opened for business on Dec. 17. In response, on Dec. 18, a DPS agent observed an alcohol sale, and a number of patrons inside and a line of people waiting to be seated.
DPS says it “intends to suspend the liquor license of each establishment for 60 days, pending a hearing before an administrative law judge. An establishment will be notified of the intent to revoke its license for five years if there are further violations.

DPS previously issued a Notice of Liquor License Suspension to four other establishments. Virtual hearings before an administrative law judge have also been scheduled in three of the cases:

  • Boardwalk Bar & Grill LLC, East Grand Forks - Virtual hearing Dec. 23 at 9:30 a.m.
  • Alibi Drinkery, Lakeville – Virtual hearing Dec. 22 at 9:30 a.m.
  • Mission Tavern, Merrifield - Virtual hearing Dec. 30 at 9:30 a.m.
  • Neighbors on the Rum, Princeton – DPS will request a hearing in this case.

In addition, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Saturday that Dakota County District Court granted a temporary restraining order against Alibi Drinkery. The Attorney General’s office has also filed lawsuits against:

  • Cornerstone Café in Monticello for operating inside on-premises dining in violation of Executive Order 20-99.
  • Cork in Anoka for operating inside on-premises dining in violation of Executive Order 20-99.
  • Neighbors on the Rum in Princeton for operating inside on-premises dining in violation of Executive Order 20-99. Neighbors on the Rum agreed to comply with the Executive Order after the lawsuit was filed.
  • Boardwalk Bar and Grill in East Grand Forks for operating on-premises dining in violation of Executive Order 20-99. The office won a temporary restraining order the same day.

Under Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-99 Implementing a Four Week Dial Back on Certain Activities to Slow the Spread of COVID-19 (EO-99), all restaurants and bars are prohibited from selling alcohol for on-premises consumption through Dec. 18 at 11:59 p.m. That prohibition was extended to Jan. 10, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. by Executive Order 20-103. The Governor’s executive orders have the force and effect of law during the peacetime emergency.

“We’re asking the small percentage of bars and restaurants that have opened for inside dining and drinking to stop and comply with the executive order,” said Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington. “Thousands of our neighbors have died from COVID-19 in Minnesota. That should be enough of a reminder that the health of our communities has to come first. Bars and restaurants that don’t abide by the law will face the consequences of their actions.”

Advisory to the liquor industry:

DPS sent a letter to the liquor industry on Dec. 13 with further information related to Executive Order 20-99, reminding licensees that:

  • All restaurants and bars are prohibited from selling alcohol for on-premises consumption from Nov. 20, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. through Dec. 18, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. That prohibition was extended to Jan. 10, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. by Executive Order 20-103.
  • Establishments with on-sale liquor licenses are allowed to sell beer and wine with takeout orders pursuant to legislation signed by Governor Walz in April of this year.
  • Any liquor licensee found to be in violation of EO-99 may be issued a misdemeanor citation for the violation.
  • A second violation means the establishment will face a 60-day liquor license suspension, pending a hearing before an administrative law judge.
  • A third or subsequent violation will result in a five-year revocation of the liquor license and the subsequent revocation of the establishment’s retail identification card (buyer’s card). Minn. Stat. § 340A.415.

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