Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Sunday night that his office has sued a Minnesota restaurant owner who planned to reopen for business Monday.
Kris Schiffler, owner of Shady’s Bar and Grill, planned on reopening his six locations for dine-in business Monday, two weeks earlier than the June 1 reopening date set by the state. He told one local outlet that he received a call from Ellison’s office Friday threatening $25,000 in fines per location, which would amount to $150,000 in total.
“I can end up broke and on the street, just like 163 employees of mine are going to do the same thing in a little bit here if we don’t get operating,” Schiffler told WCCO.
The House Republican Caucus sent a letter to Ellison Sunday warning that the “rural Minnesota economy is on the verge of collapse due to the numerous executive orders issued by Governor Walz.”
“It has come to our attention that the Attorney General’s Office is contacting these businesses and threatening them with a fine, which could be up to $25,000 per violation, if these business owners have the audacity to try and earn a living,” said the letter. “We would like to think the Attorney General’s office has better things to do than to financially punish people who have gone without a paycheck for nearly two months.”
A few hours later, Ellison’s office announced that it filed an enforcement action against Schiffler and his chain of restaurants because he has “repeatedly publicly represented his intention to violate Executive Order 20-56 by reopening the restaurants for on-premises consumption before June 1.”
“A handful of bar and restaurant owners have said they don’t want to wait any longer and want to reopen illegally. Over the past several days, my office has reached out to them to try to educate them on their rights and responsibilities under the law and the risks to Minnesotans’ health of reopening illegally. In almost all cases, owners have agreed to comply with the law. I thank them for complying,” Ellison said in a press release.
“The owner of Shady’s, however, has declared his intention to break the law and endanger his customers and employees – in Stearns County, with the second-highest number of COVID-19 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. I take that duty seriously,” he continued.
The lawsuit asks the courts to prevent Schiffler from reopening early and allow the Attorney General’s Office to seek civil penalties and restitution for violations. Ellison said the lawsuit marks the first enforcement action brought by his office to “prevent the premature restart of on-site consumption.”
A GoFundMe page was created for Schiffler and had raised more than $200,000 as of Monday afternoon.
Schiffler spoke to a crowd of supporters Monday outside his Albany location and said his lawyers advised him not to defy Ellison’s demands.
“The attorney general has just called and they have shut us down,” he said. “Our attorney has advised us to not open the doors.”
BREAKING: Shady’s bar owner in Albany just tells large crowd he can’t open as he planned at noon. Says lawyers have advised him not to contest the Attorney General’s demands here. pic.twitter.com/EdHPWf9AsR
— Paul Blume (@PaulBlume_FOX9) May 18, 2020
Ellison’s office said it will continue to investigate other bars, restaurants, and taverns that threaten to “illegally reopen for on-premises consumption.”
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