Court finds Albert Lea establishment in contempt, imposes $3K/day fine

Finds The Interchange violated the Court’s temporary restraining order by offering indoor, on-premises dining to the public; will issue written order later

January 8, 2021 (SAINT PAUL) — A Freeborn County District Court has found The Interchange of Albert Lea in contempt of court for willfully violating the court’s December 23, 2020 temporary restraining order that required the establishment to temporarily close to indoor, on-premises dining and abide by Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Orders 20-99 and 20-103. The Court ruled from the bench and indicated it would issue its written order later. 

The Court ordered The Interchange to pay a fine of $3,000 per day each day that it is open for indoor dining in violation of the executive orders and temporary injunction, effective today. The Court also noted that the recently issued Executive Order 21-01, in relevant part, permitted opening for indoor dining with restrictions, and ordered that The Interchange comply with future executive orders, as previously required by the Court’s temporary restraining order. Over The Interchange’s repeated objections that executive orders are not laws, the Court noted that Governor Tim Walz had properly issued Executive Orders 20-99 and 20-103 under Minnesota law. 

Under Minnesota law, the Governor’s executive orders issued during a peacetime emergency have “the full force and effect of law” when ratified by the Executive Council, of which Attorney General Ellison is a member. 

“I’m glad to see serious consequences for defying the court and endangering Minnesotans,” Attorney General Ellison said. “The vast majority of Minnesota bars and restaurants are complying with the law and meeting their responsibility to keep their communities safe. The very small handful that are not should take note that their willful defiance has real-world consequences, as it should.” 

On December 21, Attorney General Ellison’s office sued The Interchange for openly violating the ban on indoor on-premises dining in Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-99. On Tuesday, December 22, the Attorney General’s office moved for a temporary restraining order to prevent The Interchange from further violating the order and to compel them to comply with the order and any future applicable executive orders. The court granted the temporary restraining order on December 23. The court ordered then that The Interchange was “prevented, restrained, and enjoined from taking any action violating” Executive Orders 20-99 and 20-103,” and that it “shall fully comply with” the orders and any future applicable executive orders.” 

Since then, The Interchange has remained open in defiance of the order. 

Executive Order 20-99 is a targeted dial-back of certain activities to halt the spread of COVID-19. Among the requirements of the executive order, as modified and extended by Executive Order 20-103, are that bars and restaurants must close for on-premises indoor dining until January 10, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.