Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office yesterday filed lawsuits against two restaurants that have been open for dine-in despite the governor’s executive orders. Cornerstone Café in Monticello and Cork in Anoka are Ellison’s latest projects.
Ellison’s office issued a statement that says these restaurants have been running in “open violation” of Gov. Tim Walz’s orders, putting the “community at risk by violating ban on on-premises dining intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Executive Order 20-99, and now Executive Order 20-103, prevent restaurants and bars from opening for in-person service, which Cornerstone Café and Cork have both openly been participating in since earlier this week.
Ellison’s office’s statement claims an “investigator” confirmed the in-person dining situation at Cornerstone Café on Dec. 17, also noting, “Cornerstone’s table service posed particularly high risks during the global pandemic.” Tables were fewer than six feet apart and no masks were being worn. Cornerstone’s owner acknowledged the attempts made by Ellison’s office to “win compliance” but “said he did not intend to respond to them.”
Cork advised the Attorney General’s office of its plan to stay open, and “an investigator witnessed patrons eating and drinking inside the restaurant.”
Earlier this week, the Attorney General’s office released a statement announcing they would be holding accountable establishments that refuse to comply with the governor’s orders. They included a list of “enforcement tools” at their disposal to force businesses to comply.
Alongside the “tool list,” Ellison proclaimed to defiant restaurant owners, “You’re putting people at risk. People will get sick and die because of you. Not only from COVID-19: if someone has a heart attack or a stroke or a car accident and dies because they can’t get an ICU bed that’s being used by someone who got COVID at your establishment, or got it from someone who got it at your establishment, that death is also on you.”
In each lawsuit, Ellison has asked the court to declare the actions of owners and patrons in violation of the governor’s orders, to “stop anyone associated with these establishments from violating or threatening to violate the executive orders, and to “impose civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation or threatened violation of the executive order,” among other issues.
The statement declares that the Attorney General’s office continues “to work closely with state agencies and local law enforcement to gather evidence of violations of the executive order.” They claim they will “actively pursue more enforcement actions” upon discovering more violations.
Ellison said these two restaurants “are among the very few that have refused to live up to their responsibility to keep their customers, employees, and communities safe.” He also acknowledged, “Of the few that have threatened not to comply and the even fewer that violated the law, many have already pulled back.”
Ellison said, echoing his previous statement released Dec. 16, “I don’t enjoy using the enforcement tools I have available because I’d much prefer people do the right thing on their own.” However, he continued, “I will use them when I have no other choice to protect Minnesotans from this deadly virus.”