By David Schuman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A court has fined Albert Lea’s The Interchange Wine Bar & Bistro $9,000 for planning a “Nail It To The Walz” party that will violate court orders and executive orders on COVID-19 restrictions.

The Minnesota Attorney General’s office announced the fine from Freeborn County District Court Thursday.

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“It’s sad to see an establishment with so little concern for the health of its customers, employees, and community,” Attorney General Keith Ellison said. “More than 2,500 households in Freeborn County alone have been hurt by the deadly COVID-19 virus — and as the number continues to rise, this establishment keeps breaking the law and the executive orders that are designed to prevent suffering and death. I will not hesitate to continue to use all the tools I have to keep Minnesotans safe.”

On Wednesday, The Interchange posted on Facebook that it will be holding an event Friday that the court says will violate executive orders requiring indoor dining to close by 10 p.m. The court determined that the restaurant is in contempt of court for threatening to violate the executive order. So, the court imposed a fine of $3,000 a day for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

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The Interchange says it received a COVID-19 stimulus check and that its “Nail It To The Walz” ReOpen MN Party is being held to give it back to the public via free food, beverages and live music.

WCCO’s David Schuman reports the owner says the Constitution gives her the right to stay open.

The attorney general’s office sued the establishment on Dec. 21, 2020 for openly violating the ban on indoor on-premises dining. Dining restrictions during the pandemic have since been loosened to 50% capacity for bars and restaurants.

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David Schuman