Jun 3, 2021 - News

Will Gov. Tim Walz let Minnesota's COVID rule-breakers off the hook?

Customers drink beer at Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville, Minnesota.

Alibi Drinkery opened in December despite Gov. Tim Walz's orders. Photo: Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via Getty Images

A small handful of Minnesota businesses whose owners flouted Gov. Tim Walz's coronavirus orders are still facing lawsuits from the state, but some lawmakers want their violations dismissed.

Driving the news: Republicans in the Legislature introduced a proposal to give those businesses amnesty. It's part of a larger $52 billion budget negotiation with the governor.

  • State lawmakers, who've been negotiating behind closed doors, are expected to hash out details during a June 14 special session.
  • Walz hasn't ruled out leniency for the business owners, but has said they should face consequences, according to MPR News.

Flashback: After Walz ordered bars and restaurants to close last fall, several owners rebelled. Most backed down after warnings, but not all.

  • Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville, which opened in December and January, is now facing thousands in fines and a five-year liquor license revocation. The owner is trying to sell the bar and another in Northfield, according to FOX 9.
  • The owner of Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro in Albert Lea not only opened in defiance of Walz, she skipped a bail hearing and went on the lam until she was arrested in April, the Star Tribune reports.

The case for amnesty: Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) says forgiving the owners would move the state forward.

  • "There were some small businesses that were very frustrated and didn't know if they were going to make it," Gazelka told MPR News. "This is an opportunity as we get out of the pandemic, to just take away these penalties and let everybody back to normal."

The case for punishment: Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, a DFLer, told MPR that letting them off the hook wouldn't be fair to the businesses that obeyed the order.

  • "I think it's a slap in the face to everybody who did all they could to protect their neighbors and their fellow workers and their customers and their employees from COVID and who obeyed the restrictions," he said.

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