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

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The owner of a central Minnesota restaurant isn't willing to wait any longer for government restrictions to ease up.

Kris Schiffler intends to open Shady's Hometown Tavern in Albany at noon Monday for indoor dining service.

"We're gonna see how it goes," Schiffler said. "We don't know the outcome of this."

Sunday, Schiffler along with a handful of employees were stocking supplies, sanitizing everything and doing prep work ahead of the reopening. It's the first time since mid-March Shady's will welcome customers to a table inside. 

Schiffler said he's doing it to survive, not out of spite.

"We need help," he said. "We don't want free money. Let us do this in a fashion that is safe and healthy."

New safety protocols have been put in place, such as placing sanitation stations at entrances, using disposable menus and utensils, spacing out tables and chairs and limiting capacity. 

Schiffler said the bold move is on behalf of his business and other small establishments considered non-essential, such as the barbershop up the street owned by Mitchel Bates, "I think the collateral damage is something that has not been considered nearly as much as Covid-19."

Over the weekend, there was an unexpected and eye-popping show of community support for local businesses. A GoFundMe raised more than $160,000 and counting. The money is earmarked to challenge Gov. Tim Walz's executive order prohibiting restaurants, bars or salons from restarting for at least two more weeks until June 1.

Schiffler isn't willing to wait, regardless of the potential consequences.

"When we saw the GoFundMe page and how much support we have from people, it's tough. We can't sit here and watch anymore, we aren't going to," he said.

The sheriff's office in Stearns County, where Albany resides, posted a message on its website saying it would continue to enforce the governor's order.

"While we understand the need to open and survive as a business owner, we also cannot endorse or advocate for the open defiance of an order issued by the state," Stearns County Sheriff Steve Soyka said in a statement.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Sunday he was filing an injunction to prevent Shady's from reopening in violation of the governor's "Stay Safe Minnesota" executive order.

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