An Albert Lea restaurant is facing a $9,000 fine for a party it plans to throw Friday that will violate Gov. Tim Walz's COVID-19 restrictions on dining.
The Interchange Wine and Coffee Bistro is throwing what it's calling the " 'Nail it to the Walz' Reopen MN Party" on Friday night, according to its Facebook page.
The party will feature free food and beverages with live music — all paid for by a COVID-19 business relief stimulus check the restaurant received from the state, meant to help it get through the time of restrictions.
"Where does this money come from? From you & me, the taxpayers. I don't want to take your hard earned cash so we're giving it back in the only way we know how," according to the post. "Not taking reservations. Come and have a great time with family and friends."
The restaurant has had quite a few run-ins with the law for violating Walz's restrictions on dining and bars.
On Thursday, the Freeborn County District Court issued the $9,000 fine for the Interchange's violation of the court's Jan. 8 order, which found the restaurant in contempt of court for violating the original temporary restraining order, issued on Dec. 23, according to a news release issued Thursday by Attorney General Keith Ellison's Office.
The January order also imposed a fine of $3,000 for every day the restaurant violated executive orders.
In a message to the Star Tribune, the Interchange declined to comment Thursday night.
Ellison's office sued the restaurant on Dec. 21 for violating a ban on indoor on-premises dining.
Most recently, Walz loosened restrictions on bars and restaurants to indoor service at 50% capacity with a 10 p.m. curfew and caps of six-person tables and two-person bar groups 6 feet apart on Jan. 11.
"For threatening to violate the executive order, The Interchange is in contempt of court," the release said. "Accordingly, the Court imposed a fine of $3,000 a day for The Interchange's violations of yesterday, today, and tomorrow."
At the court hearing, the court also turned the temporary restraining order into a temporary injunction, which requires the Interchange to comply with all current and future COVID-19 bar and restaurant restrictions for the duration of the state's litigation against it, according to the release.
"It's sad to see an establishment with so little concern for the health of its customers, employees, and community," Ellison said in the release.
"More than 2,500 households in Freeborn County alone have been hurt by the deadly COVID-19 virus — and as the number continues to rise, this establishment keeps breaking the law and the executive orders that are designed to prevent suffering and death," Ellison said. "I will not hesitate to continue to use all the tools I have to keep Minnesotans safe."
In the Facebook video, Interchange owner Lisa Hanson, who is wearing a T-shirt bearing the words "THE GOVERNOR IS NOT MY KING," talks about Friday's party and her defiance of Walz's order.
In comments posted by her readers, her plan got mixed reviews.
"Awesome! Keep fighting," said one comment. Another read, "Places not to go when I am in the area."