MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Hastings restaurant owner said she was fined by the state without warning.

The Busted Nut Bar and Grill received a $7,600 fine for violating COVID-19 rules.

Owner Tatia Nelson said a major reason why a state inspector fined them was because of how an employee was wearing a face shield.

“I just kept asking why they were here and she just said another agency called on me,” said Nelson.

As owner for the past 16 years, Nelson knows just about everyone that comes into her restaurant. But last week, a visit from OSHA left her with a bill.

“One of the masks my bartender was wearing was a face shield that sits above the nose and on the chin and apparently that wasn’t compliant,” said Nelson.

Nelson said that even though they corrected the concerns, she still received a more than $7,000 fine from the state.

When asked if she felt like she was being picked on, Nelson said “Absolutely. As a small business, yes. I asked numerous times why I wasn’t getting a warning.”

During a conference call Thursday afternoon, state health leaders said they don’t discuss open cases. But they acknowledged that there are situations where enforcement comes into play more quickly.

“If we’ve had previous complaints or history of non-compliance. If there are issues that directly impact worker safety,” said Dan Huff, Assistant Commissioner with the Minnesota Department of Health.

Nelson has until Sept. 27 to pay the fine, but right now she’s planning to challenge it.

“I can see maybe saying a warning but not a huge fine. This town, this restaurant, these people don’t need that,” said customer Sandy McCollum.

Customers and friends have started a GoFundMe page to help Nelson.

“I just wanted to get the word out it could happen to anybody. I’m just a little 50-seat restaurant in Hastings,” said Nelson. “It’s really sad. People need to be more aware this is happening.”

John Lauritsen