AG Ellison sues to stop central Minnesota restaurant from reopening

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Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Sunday that his office filed a lawsuit to stop a chain of restaurants in central Minnesota from reopening for dine-in service.

In a news release, Ellison stated that Shady's — which has locations in Albany, Burtrum, Cold Spring, New Munich, Rice and St. Martin — would be in violation of Gov. Tim Walz's "Stay Safe Minnesota" executive order should they reopen for in-store service.

All of the Shady's locations are in or near Stearns County, which has become one of Minnesota's fastest-growing COVID-19 hotspots. As of Sunday, there have been 1,713 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths in Stearns County. Only Minnesota's most populous county, Hennepin, has more cases.

Restaurant owner in Stearns County plans to reopen dining room despite government restrictions

The Attorney General's Office said it informed Shady's owner Kris Schiffler of the potential violation of the governor's order and the public health risk of reopening. According to the release, Schiffler initially indicated he would delay reopening the restaurants but later publicly stated his intention to open on Monday.

Ellison stated that Schiffler's decision to illegally reopen Shady's could "endanger" the public and his employees.

"My office has the duty to enforce the law and the Governor’s order, to protect Minnesotans’ health, and to protect businesses that are complying with the order from unfair competition. I take that duty seriously," Ellison stated.

Violating the executive order comes with a fine worth up to $25,000.

On Sunday, dozens of Minnesota House Republicans signed a letter calling on Ellison to stop threatening business that reopen in violation of the governor's executive order.

"For two months, our Main Streets have been barren," the letter states. "The reality is, when a Main Street business in rural Minnesota shuts down, it never reopens. When they are forced into closure by their state government, the likelihood increases that their closure will be permanent."

The letter points out that many rural counties have fewer than 10 cases in total but are being held to the same restrictions as Minnesota's population centers. But Ellison pointed out that Shady's is based in Stearns County, which has the second-most cases in the state.

Rep. Ron Kresha, one of the authors of the letter, responded directly to Ellison's lawsuit.

"It is truly appalling that the Attorney General would take a small business owner to court simply for trying to save his business," Kresha said. "Businesses have followed the governor's mandates for months now, and many have been driven to the point where they'll never open their doors again. The fact that our state's top lawyer is trying to sue a business out of existence is unacceptable."