Attorney General’s office files new enforcement actions against Monticello and Anoka restaurants illegally operating on-premises dining
Cork in Anoka and Cornerstone Cafe in Monticello put community at risk by violating ban on on-premises dining intended to slow the spread of COVID-19
December 18, 2020 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced that his office has filed two lawsuits today, one against Cornerstone Cafe in Monticello and another against Cork in Anoka, that have been operating inside on-premises dining in open violation of Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-99. Among the requirements of the executive order — a targeted dial-back of certain activities to halt the spread of COVID-19 — are that bars and restaurants must close for on-premises indoor dining until December 18, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. That prohibition was extended yesterday by Executive Order 20-103 until January 10, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.
Cornerstone Cafe publicly advertised that it was open for on-site dining on December 16. An investigator confirmed that Cornerstone was serving customers indoors on December 17. Cornerstone’s table service posed particularly high risks during the global pandemic — the investigator noted that Cornerstone’s customers and staff were not wearing masks, and customers were seated at tables fewer than six feet apart.
The Attorney General’s office made multiple attempts by phone and letter to contact Cornerstone Cafe and win compliance. Cornerstone’s owner acknowledged those attempts on social media and said he did not intend to respond to them.
On December 17, Cork informed the Attorney General’s Office that it intended to remain open and an investigator witnessed patrons eating and drinking inside the restaurant.
“There are 10,000 restaurants and 1,500 bars in Minnesota. By far the vast majority of them have served their communities by complying with the law all along. Of the few that have threatened not to comply and the even fewer that violated the law, many have already pulled back. The two restaurants that we’re holding accountable today are among the very few that have refused to live up to their responsibility to keep their customers, employees, and communities safe,” Attorney General Ellison said.
“Once again, I’m asking all restaurants and bars to do the right thing and comply with the law and orders that are designed to stop the spread of COVID-19. I don’t enjoy using the enforcement tools I have available because I’d much prefer people do the right thing on their own, but I will use them when I have no other choice to protect Minnesotans from this deadly virus,” Attorney General Ellison concluded.
In its lawsuits against the restaurants, Attorney General Ellison’s office has asked the court to:
- Declare that defendants’ actions constitute violations of Executive Order 20-99;
- Stop anyone associated with these establishments from violating or threatening to violate the executive orders;
- Award restitution, disgorgement, or damages to the State;
- Impose civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation or threatened violation of the executive order;
- Award the State its costs; and
- Impose any other relief the court finds just.
Any and all fines the court may impose go to the State of Minnesota general fund, not the Attorney General’s Office.
Attorney General Ellison’s office is continuing to work closely with state agencies and local law enforcement to gather evidence of violations of the executive order and will actively pursue more enforcement actions where violations have taken place. The Attorney General’s office and its partners have a range of enforcement tools at their disposal to hold businesses, their owners, and agents accountable for violating the order.
Attorney General Ellison’s office has civil authority to enforce the terms of Executive Order 20-99 as extended by Executive Order 20-103 and seek relief if necessary. The Governor’s executive orders have the force and effect of law during the peacetime emergency.
December 21, 2020 — 4:55 PM
Attorney General’s office files for temporary restraining orders against Monticello, Anoka restaurants illegally operating on-premises dining
TRO motion is next step in lawsuits against Cornerstone Cafe in Monticello and Cork in Anoka filed last Friday