Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced Tuesday that his office has settled its lawsuit against St. Patrick’s Tavern & Restaurant in New Prague for violations of Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders, which aimed to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Per the terms of a consent judgment filed in Scott County, the restaurant will pay a $15,000 fine and comply with the requirements of Walz’s current and future executive orders that apply to bars and restaurants while those executive orders are in effect, a release from Ellison’s office said.
If St. Patrick’s Tavern & Restaurant violates any terms of the judgment, it would be subject to a civil penalty of $25,000. All funds received in this settlement go to the State of Minnesota General Fund, not the Attorney General’s Office, the release said.
One of the requirements of the governor’s executive orders was that bars and restaurants were prohibited from permitting indoor, on-premises consumption of food or drink between Nov. 20, 2020 and Jan. 10. Despite efforts by the Attorney General’s Office to gain compliance with the requirements, St. Patrick’s Tavern & Restaurant remained open for indoor, on-premises consumption, the release said. A county sheriff deputy and a state investigator noted multiple violations in several unannounced visits.
A Facebook post published by an employee of the bar in late March said the establishment contacted Walz’s office multiple times to try to “work something out” that didn’t hurt small businesses but it never received a reply.
“We wanted to work. We were frustrated at how our state was dealing with the shutdown. We knew that customers were flooding to the border bars, filling the big box stores, hopping on airplanes, I could go on and on,” the post said. “We had been closed, we opened up outside, we masked, cleaned, went to 25 percent capacity and more and yet we were shut down again.”
The post said St. Patrick’s did something to “make a statement” and “no one and nothing got hurt.”
Even after the Attorney General’s Office first called the restaurant to provide education on the executive orders, the owner indicated that she was not sure whether she would comply, the release said. After that phone call, St. Patrick’s Tavern & Restaurant remained open for indoor, on-premises consumption of food and drink, and hosted several hundred customers indoors on both Dec. 18 and 19, 2020. On Dec. 21, Ellison’s office filed a lawsuit against the bar and restaurant for openly violating the executive orders.
“It’s every Minnesotan’s responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19. I thank this business for agreeing to meet its responsibility and rejoin the vast majority of Minnesota businesses that are already doing so,” Ellison said in a statement. “My top priority has always been educating Minnesotans about their responsibility and winning voluntary compliance. Enforcement has been and will continue to be a last resort.”
This represents the sixth settlement the attorney general’s office has reached with businesses against which it had filed enforcement actions for violating the terms of Executive Orders 20-99 and 20-103.