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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Enough is enough for a group of business owners in central Minnesota.
More than two dozen bars, restaurants and salons in Stearns County plan to reopen Monday, defying the state order keeping them closed until June.
Come next week, customers will no longer be turned away at Stoney’s Bar in Rockville. Owner Chester “Cheetoz” Betts says doors open Monday — stay-at-home order be damned.
“We’re not doing this to spite anyone. We’re doing it for survival,” Betts said.
He says there are about 30 bars, restaurants and salons in both Stearns County and neighboring counties that plan to open along with him.
“I haven’t gotten a paycheck in two months now come Sunday,” Betts said.
Safety is a consideration. Social distancing Xs mark the floor at Stoney’s, and barstools and tables have been removed to maintain 50% capacity.
Stoney’s has five employees, and all will be temperature checked when they come into work. They won’t be required to wear masks or gloves, but the plan is to have hand sanitizer all over the bar for them.
But all the planning may be for nothing. The Stearns County Sheriff’s office says businesses that refuse to stay closed face possible fines, criminal charges and licensing issues. In a statement, Sheriff Steve Soyka said in part, “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.”
Betts looks at it like a game of chicken.
“If they pull, threaten to pull all of our liquor licenses and what not, the state’s going to lose out on all of that revenue,” Betts said. “If we all do this at once, they’re gonna dry up Stearns County?”
He admits he’s a little scared, but losing the business he’s run for 10 years isn’t much of an alternative.
“At least I’m fighting for it, you know,” he said. “And if it dies, that way at least I fought for it.”
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