By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Tim Walz is expected to announce his decision on his expiring COVID-19 restrictions this Wednesday. But dozens of businesses owners say they will open their doors whether he allows it or not.

Lisa Monet Zarza owns Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville. It is a spot normally known for hockey parties, sports watching and nights of making memories with friends. But right now, the lights are off and the doors locked.

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“People don’t come here for the food. They come here because they love our restaurant,” Zarza said. “The first shutdown they did takeout we did 5%. It wasn’t worth it. So this shutdown we made the decision to not open for takeout.”

But she won’t be closed for long. Zarza is part of a coalition of roughly 150 bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses that plan to open their doors this week, even if the governor extends his latest orders.

“My heart breaks for anybody that has lost someone to COVID or wasn’t able to see a person that they loved because of the shutdowns and restrictions on the hospitals,” she said. “And we would never say that COVID isn’t real, but we need to be open.”

Darius Teichroew helped start the Reopen Minnesota Coalition in the spring. This concerned community member is not a business owner.

“I’ve heard stories of businesses who mortgaged their homes to save it last spring, and now they’re getting ready to lose both their business and their home,” Teichroew said.

(credit: CBS)

He knows some places have stayed open and under the radar, telling him they had no other choice.

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“There’s risks on one side and there’s guarantees of going under and losing business on the other side,” he said.

Zarza says she isn’t just doing it for herself, but for her employees as well.

“The messages I’m getting from my staff and saying, ‘I don’t know what to do, I can’t get through, I don’t know how to buy my kids Christmas presents,’” she said. “If I was in charge, I’d open our state and let people make their own personal decisions.”

Organizers tell WCCO most coalition members would follow guidelines if they’re loosened Wednesday. But if not, they will do what they have to do.

“At the end of the day, people just want to feed their families, care for their employees, provide for their communities,” Teichroew said.

Zarza says she’s ready to pay fines, and even go to jail if need be.

“There’s no end in sight, and we can’t wait, and our staff can’t wait,” Zarza said.

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Gov. Walz has acknowledged that restrictions have unfairly impacted businesses like bars and restaurants. He is calling for a relief package to be passed Monday in the midst of the legislature’s seventh special session of 2020.

Erin Hassanzadeh