(The Center Square) – Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison sued an owner of Shady’s, a chain of six bars and restaurants who planned to open one store Monday for dine-in service in violation of Gov. Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-56.
Walz’s preliminary timeline aims to allow bars, restaurants, and barbershops to open on June 1.
Shady’s owner Kris Schiffler said he planned to open his Albany location at noon Monday.
“These businesses can’t wait anymore, you guys,” Schiffler said in a Sunday video. “These resort owners can’t make it through the week. They have 105 days in an entire year to be able to make all their money. They don’t have 365 days like the rest of us.”
But Schiffler backed off Monday, FOX 9 reported, and told a gathered crowd his attorney advised against reopening.
Shady's created a GoFundme page Sunday for small Minnesota businesses that has garnered $200,000, from 1,800 donors to challenge Walz's executive orders.
“We need our business back just like so many others do. This isn't a fight we should HAVE to fight, but it is a fight we are GOING to fight!," the page says. "We are taking a stand to fight for our rights to earn a living, to fight for our employees and their families and to fight for ALL MN SMALL BUSINESSES!"
Schiffler had said they would practice social distancing and heightened cleaning standards when they opened.
Ellison’s office said they warned Schiffler and other business owners who considered reopening of potential consequences.
“The vast majority of Minnesota’s bar and restaurant owners are doing the safe, lawful, and right thing during this crisis by keeping their doors closed, while still serving customers as allowed through take-out and drive-up,” Ellison said in a statement.
“As hard as it is for them – and I know it’s hard – they’re doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep themselves, their families, their employees, and their customers safe from this deadly pandemic. They deserve all of our thanks.”
Albany is in Stearns County, which has 1,713 cases COVID-19 and 10 deaths, the county with the second-highest number of confirmed cases in Minnesota.
“My office has the duty to enforce the law and the Governor’s order, to protect Minnesotans’ health, and to protect businesses that are complying with the order from unfair competition,” Ellison said. “I take that duty seriously.”
House Republicans opposed the action Sunday in a letter to Ellison.
The lawmakers argued the sweeping orders treated some businesses in case-ridden counties like Hennepin County, which has over 5,000 COVID-19 cases, the same as in rural counties that have 10 COVID-19 cases.
“For two months, our Main Streets have been barren,” the letter read. “The reality is, when a Main Street business in rural Minnesota shuts down, it never reopens. When they are forced into closure by their state government, the likelihood increases that their closure will be permanent. These are desperate times in rural Minnesota.”
Ellison’s lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to prevent Shady’s from opening, civil penalties of up to $25,000 per violation, and more.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, told reporters Monday that Ellison and Walz should be “judicious” with their power.
“If [businesses] are opening up now, it’s because they’re taking a risk because if they don’t open up, they’re dead,” Gazelka said.