Defying an executive order by Gov. Tim Walz, a Minnesota bar owner reopened, calling the statewide four-week closing of drinking and dining establishments "a slap to our face."
"I feel a responsibility for the life of my employees; certainly much more than the politicians do," said Jane Moss, owner of the Boardwalk Bar & Grill in East Grand Forks. "I've seen financial difficulty and mental health impact them, so I am doing this for them. They deserve much better than what Gov. Walz is doing to them."
Walz issued an executive order closing bars and restaurants, along with other entertainment venues, effective Nov. 20 through Dec. 18. With COVID-19 cases spiking in the state, he said the closings were necessary to keep Minnesotans healthy and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.
On Wednesday, state health officials reported 82 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the state's total to 4,109. Since Thanksgiving, 734 Minnesotans have died of COVID-19 complications.
In a message posted on Facebook, Moss said she would open the Boardwalk at 4 p.m. Wednesday for dine-in service and would be open Tuesdays through Saturdays going forward. On Wednesday night, diners could be seen inside.
Moss' bar and restaurant overlooks the Red River, no more than a good golf shot away from North Dakota, which has no restrictions on indoor dining. That state's official guidance is for dining and drinking establishments to adhere to accepted health protocols.
"The governor is creating unlawful and unconstitutional orders that are devastating industries like mine," Moss said. "Most of us can't survive financially unless we open back up.
"Also, right across the border in North Dakota, business is doing quite well. It's a slap to our face to see us fail while they prosper in North Dakota.
"I believe if we allow these government bullies to scare us away, we will lose our businesses and our liberties for good," Moss said. "I am not willing to back down."
John Stiles, a spokesman for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, said the office is "working with state and local agencies to understand the situation on the ground and evaluate next steps."
Stiles noted that Ellison has taken legal action against only three Minnesota businesses for defying Walz's orders during the pandemic: Shady's, a bar in Albany; the North Star Rodeo in Effie; and the Plainview Wellness Center.
"It's everyone's responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19, and that's what the governor's executive orders are intended to do," Stiles said. "They are legal, they have the force of law in an emergency and everyone is expected to abide by them."