Bars, restaurants warned by state agency to comply with Stay Safe orders

A staple in Anoka, Danno’s Bar on Main Street boasts a thinner crowd these days.

After being allowed to open under Minnesota’s Stay Safe order, owner Dan Sweeney said he took steps to bring his bar into compliance.

But those preps weren’t enough, according to the state’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division.

Danno’s, along with 14 other establishments, received warning letters from the agency, explaining they are in violation of the governor’s executive order and that changes needed to be made or face “more severe action.”


DPS warns 14 Minnesota bars, restaurants over COVID violations

“Someone, I believe it was the end of June, had their mask under their chin and a customer had expressed concern,” Sweeney said. “I immediately got on the phone to my employees and said, ‘You guys keep your mask on.’”

Carla Cincotta, director of the division, said her staff went to 919 bars and restaurants during a two-week sweep to check for appropriate capacity, social distancing adherence and to see whether or not employees were wearing masks.

“Oftentimes, when we walk by or drive by, we can see the interior of an establishment or patio is packed with people standing or tables that have been moved or are clustered,” Cincotta said during a press conference Monday.

State staff reported the majority of violations were employees not wearing masks and social distancing not being followed, Cincotta said.

While more severe actions could include fines or suspension of liquor license, Cincotta said the division is focused on education first.

“We will follow back up with these establishments and continue to do some observation of how they are executing their business plan,” she said.

But several bar owners on the list that 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reached by phone said they never received a letter.

Brad Slawson, who owns Route 47 Pub and Grub in Fridley, said no one from the state has reached out to explain to him what violations occurred in his establishment and when they occurred.

“This is a joke,” Slawson said over the phone, just hours after he learned the list was public.

In Anoka, Sweeney has taken even more extreme measures to make sure they stay compliant with the Stay Safe order, including closing an hour early on the several weekend nights to deter the late-night bar-hopping crowd.

“You roll with the punches and you play whack-a-mole with the things that come up and you try to make sure they don’t come up,” he said.