Exclusive: Jailed for Violating Walz’s ‘Indoor Service’ Ban, Lisa Hanson Shares What Her Ordeal Taught Her


The owner of Albert Lea’s now-closed Interchange Coffee and Wine Bistro told The Minnesota Sun she has learned the value of family and true friendship as she serves her 90-day sentence for violating Democrat Gov. Timothy J. “Tim” Walz’s ban on indoor service.

“Probably the biggest thing I miss about running the bistro is the guests,” said Melissa “Lisa” Hanson, who, December 9, began her sentence at the Freeborn County Adult Detention Center.

“To be able to provide a great product coupled with a unique atmosphere and thoughtful joy was to sit and observe,” she said.

“Whether it was a busy summer lunch with guests enjoying the patio under the pergolas or a ‘Live Music Friday Night’ watching the guests relax and enjoy themselves while all their worries melted away to the tunes the musicians were strumming or plunking out,” she said. “Seeing family and friends laugh and relax together was so special – these are some of the things I miss.”

Hanson said she was proud of the bistro and the community that grew up there among the customers and staff.

“Customer service along with weekly entertainment was a blessing, to say the least,” she said. “Not to toot our own horn, but when our rating was always very high & we received compliments on a regular basis, you knew you were a well-loved establishment. Our staff truly cared. I think the thing that brought my husband and me the most joy.”

One of the lessons from the ordeal Hanson said she learned was the durability of friendship.

“I’ve learned you can make friends anywhere, even in jail,” she said. “In regard to our friends and supporters on the other side of the bars, I am speechless,” she said.

“Their support has been far beyond incredible,” she said. “They have supported and continue to do so with prayers, cards, letters, books and financial help.”

Hanson: Friends responded to the storm damage at the family farm

Hanson said her family farm suffered significant damage during a winter storm, and while she could not help her husband from jail, her friends and supporters stepped up.

“A huge team of helpers even showed up at our property after we got hit with the storm in December,” she said.

“Our of helpers even showed up at our property after we got hit with the storm in December which leveled our 1960s two-story barn, damaged other outbuildings, our home, and destroyed several trees on our property,” she said.

“I wish I had been there to see it,” she said. “It was like a miracle! My husband and I will be forever grateful,” she said.

Based on the extraordinary circumstances, Hanson said she petitioned the court for a temporary release to deal with the property damage.

“I petitioned the court for an emergency furlough to be able to help with the enormous chore of all one must do after going through a crisis of this nature,” she said.

City Attorney Kelly D. Martinez effectively blocked that release, she said. “The court easily denied my request after receiving a stern recommendation to not allow the furlough from the Albert Lea city prosecutor.”

Hanson said her relatives have also been terrific in their assistance and support.

“My family has been amazing while I’ve been incarcerated,” she said.

“Not only have they been very supportive of me, but our children and other family members are supporting and checking in on my husband on a regular basis,” she said.

“Honestly, this situation has probably been harder on my husband than myself,” she said. “I’m grateful for a loving and close family.”

Albert Lea city manager does not renew Hanson’s lease

When Hanson is released March 9, she will not have a business to return to running because the city did not renew the lease that expired at the end of 2021 after seven-and-a-half years of being solid tenants, she said.

City Manager Ian Rigg told The Sun he decided not to renew the lease because he was planning a construction project for the city-owned building, where Hanson ran her bistro.

Hanson said Rigg is not being truthful, as she had every reason to expect her lease would be renewed.

“I was given bogus and untruthful reasons by the city manager, of which I promptly corrected him on with proof of documentation,” she said.

“The reason was then given they wanted us out because there would be construction performed on the outside front of the building in 2022,” she said.

“We challenged the city on the non-renewal of the lease, but they held fast on their decision with absolutely no good or viable reason,” she said.

“They gave us no chance to reopen the Interchange and try to recoup the money we had lost,” she said.

“In so many ways, this was a poor excuse from the city,” she said.

“In earlier years, the historical downtown underwent the streetscape and sewer system project which closed the front entrances of all the businesses for months,” she said. “The businesses continued to operate & remain open in spite of the construction.”

Hanson said she had a positive working relationship with the city government officials until Walz’s executive order banning indoor service at restaurants.

“The city had always been very workable with them and us until I stood against the governor’s mandate,” she said.

“It was then that everything changed on their end.”

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Neil W. McCabe is the national political editor of The Star News Network. Send him news tips to: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @neilwmccabe2.
Photo “Lisa Hanson” by Cerro Gordo County Jail. 




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