MINNEAPOLIS — More than 150 Minnesota businesses have banned together and vowed to open their doors to customers in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz's statewide COVID mandates.
ReOpen Minnesota is a group of businesses owner who feel they can't wait any longer to reopen their doors to customers, and some are planning to start as early as Wednesday.
"I hate that we have sides in this, but our side has a lot of people represented in that same boat," Darius Theichroew said, referring to people who have lost their loved ones to COVID-19. "They've lost loved ones, and they also see that there's a nuance here that we need."
Theichroew is involved with ReOpen Minnesota. The group has published a list of businesses supporting their cause, which includes restaurants, bars and fitness centers that plan to open their doors this week.
The four-week "pause" currently in effect in Minnesota was scheduled to be lifted on Dec. 18, but a spokesperson from the governor's office confirmed that at a press event on Wednesday afternoon, Walz plans to extend the restrictions for another three weeks, through the holiday season.
The governor has said he's trying to balance the needs of small businesses on main streets across the state with the need to contain the spread of COVID. Family gatherings, bars and restaurants have been trouble spots for transmission of the virus, according to the top disease experts at the Minnesota Department of Health.
The administration is also facing a lawsuit by a group of high school athletes and parents who want to see youth sports resume.
Gov. Walz is scheduled to sign a $216 million stimulus plan on Wednesday, releasing millions of dollars to struggling workers and businesses affected by the pause.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a statement Wednesday night to all businesses who choose to violate Gov. Walz's new restrictions.
“My job and my duty is to protect Minnesotans. People like to ask, what is the Attorney General going to do? What they should be asking is, what is coronavirus going to do? Coronavirus is deadly and it’s continuing to spread: it doesn’t care who you are or where you live, where you work or where you let off steam. You’re not immune from it and your loved ones aren’t either. No one is.
“Our approach from the start has been to win voluntary compliance, and in almost all cases, we’ve been able to do so. To those few businesses that are choosing to openly violate the executive order, I say this is the wrong way to go. I don’t enjoy using the enforcement tools I have, but I will use them to hold violators accountable and keep Minnesotans safe.
“I also want to say to the vast majority of Minnesota businesses that are making sacrifices to comply with the law and keep their customers, employees, and communities safe that I see you and I thank you. You deserve our gratitude. You do not deserve unfair competition from those who are not doing their part.”