The office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed lawsuits Monday against three bars/restaurants for violating the ban Governor Tim Walz put on indoor dining in November to curb Covid-19 cases.

Ellison’s office stated that “St. Patrick’s Tavern in New Prague, Pour House in Clarks Grove, and The Interchange in Albert Lea put the community at risk by operating on-premises indoor dining in open violation of Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-99” a measure to dial back certain activities in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Executive order 20-99 mandates that bars and restaurants close for indoor dining until Jan. 10, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. 

According to Ellison’s office, St. Patrick’s Tavern had between 150 and 200 vehicles in its parking lot on Dec. 18. They quoted witnesses who said the bar was full, standing-room-only. Further, the owner allegedly told law enforcement she knew she was breaking the governor’s executive order rules, but her establishment was prepared to continue operating in violation of the order.

Ellison’s office claimed that numerous complaints had been made about the Pour House in Clarks Grove, including one stating that the bar was operating at maximum capacity. Social media posts confirmed this with customers sitting nearby at the bar, with neither employees nor customers wearing face masks.

Ellison said his actions were necessary because a small handful of Minnesotan bars/restaurants are threatening their customers, workers, and communities by not complying with the law and therefore “prolonging the pain of the pandemic for everyone.” 

In the lawsuits, Ellison’s office asked the court to:

  • Declare that defendants’ actions constitute violations of Executive Order 20-99.

  • Stop anyone associated with these establishments from violating or threatening to violate the executive orders.   

  • Award restitution, disgorgement, or damages to the State. 

  • Impose civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation or threatened violation of the executive order. 

  • Award the State its costs.

  • Impose any other relief the court finds just.

These actions bring the number of bars/restaurants Ellison’s office has sued to ten.

Double standards?

Double standards have been suggested as Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Ellison are taking legal action against business owners while releasing violent criminals, including one accused of killing a child. Last Tuesday, as part of the state’s Board of Pardons, Walz and Ellison voted to immediately commute the life sentence of Myon Burrell, who had spent 18 years in prison for the murder of 11-year-old Tyesha Edwards in 2002. Burrell had not intended to kill the young girl, but a stray bullet during a gang fight he was involved in hit Edwards in the heart while she was in her home doing schoolwork. In court, Burrell’s cousin and jail mate said in 2002 that he confessed to the killing, and Timothy Oliver, the intended victim of the shooting, confirmed that Burrell pulled the trigger. Burrell maintains that he was innocent. 

Larvita McFarquhar, owner of Havens Garden Restaurant in Lynd, MN

Walz is also a keen advocate of the de-incarceration  agenda, viewing incarceration as “a failure of the system.” Speaking at a Re-Imagining Criminal Justice conference, he advocated de-criminalizing carjacking and drug trafficking, without acknowledging or showing concern about the rise in homicides in Minneapolis by 97 percent, aggravated assault by 26 percent, and carjackings by 319 percent. Even the mayor has sounded the alarm on a crisis of officers retiring at double the normal annual attrition rate. 

By Governor Walz’s logic, Larvita McFarquhar, an African-American single mom with four children to support and owner of Haven’s Garden restaurant in Lynd, Minnesota, is a criminal for keeping her business open. Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Kaitrin C. Vohs filed court documents to have McFarquhar potentially imprisoned to force her compliance with Walz’s executive order. McFarquhar has defended herself, saying she has no other way to support her family, and she did not receive a penny of federal help.

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Carol King received a first-class BA (honors) in History and Politics from Stirling University, along with an exceptional commendation for a study on US public opinion and Foreign Policy. She also completed a year of study at the University of London before taking up a Graduate Proctor Fellowship at Princeton University. She further completed a MPhil in American Politics at Dundee University. Aspiring to be a writer/commentator on American politics, she now writes for UncoverDC. Twitter: @CarolKing561