AG Ellison files lawsuits against Lakeville, Princeton restaurants that violated COVID-19 restrictions

Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Thursday that his office had filed lawsuits against two Minnesota restaurants that opened for dine-in service on Wednesday in defiance of state COVID-19 restrictions.

The lawsuits were filed against Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville and Neighbors on the Rum in Princeton for violating Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order prohibiting on-premises indoor dining in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The ban went into effect on Dec. 18 and was extended Wednesday through Jan. 10.

“I know it’s tough out there for businesses and employees and help is already on the way — but what these establishments are doing is wrong. Not just wrong in breaking the law — wrong in exposing their loved ones, their customers, their employees, their communities, and potentially every Minnesotan to COVID-19," Ellison said in a statement. "People will get sick, and some will die, because they’re breaking the law.”

In a news release, Ellison said that Alibi had "proudly" promoted its reopening and recorded several videos of the restaurant packed with patrons and said if officials asked her to close, she would "see them in court." Neighbors on the Rum opened its doors to several dozen people for indoor dining and said it would not stop when confronted by local police officers.

Ellison asked the court to declare that the restaurants’ actions violated Walz’s executive order and to stop anyone associated with the businesses from further violations. Alibi and Neighbors on the Rum could also face up to $25,000 in fines.

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety suspended both of the establishments’ liquor licenses for 60 days, pending a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Both of the restaurants were on a list of more than 150 businesses a group claims were planning on reopening in defiance of the governor’s orders. However, Ellison pointed out that 40% of those businesses listed can already operate legally and aren’t violating the order, and some are anonymous. About 20 others have contacted Ellison’s office to show they are still complying with the law and aren’t open for in-person services.