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Sunrise Snapshot: Wednesday, May 20

Everything you need to know heading into your Wednesday.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — MN-based lawsuit claims 'conspiracy', inflated commissions for realtors

A Minnesota man is the first plaintiff in a class-action, antitrust lawsuit that some experts say could change the way residential homes are bought and sold in the U.S. The lawsuit, Moehrl v. National Association of Realtors, claims homes sold by realtors since 2014 in most major metropolitan areas were part of a "conspiracy" between the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and four of the largest real estate companies including Realogy, HomeServices of America, RE/MAX and Keller Williams. At the heart of the lawsuit is the NAR’s policy on the payment of realtors, known as the “Buyer Broker Commission Rule”. It states all brokers who list a property on a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) must make a blanket, non-negotiable offer of compensation to the buyer’s broker. This means the seller and their agent are the ones who decide how much the buyer’s agent will get paid during a sale. And most often, the seller typically pays for both agents, according to the lawsuit. Marisa Katz, an attorney for lead plaintiff Christopher Moerhl, of Shorewood, MN, says the system is rigged, causing Americans to pay three to four percent more in broker fees than other countries. 

Restaurant owners await reopening guidelines

The coal-fired pizza at Black Sheep in the North Loop hasn’t changed, but the layout of the restaurant on Washington Avenue certainly has. Ahead of an expected announcement on Wednesday about reopening guidelines for bars and restaurants – targeted for June 1, with limitations –  Black Sheep owner Jordan Smith and other restaurateurs have already worked to sanitize their buildings, rearrange furniture according to social distancing standards, and de-clutter spaces to minimize interaction. At Black Sheep, Smith said he’ll take reservations for the first time and will move to either paper or digital menus via smartphone. Despite these extra preparations, restaurants are eagerly awaiting the new state guidelines – which are expected to clarify what capacity will be allowed in the initial phase of reopening. Steve Grove, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), tweeted that “phased plans for Bars, Restaurants & other places of public accommodation” will be announced at some point Wednesday. In his executive order last week, Gov. Walz tasked four of his commissioners with creating these guidelines and set a May 20 (Wednesday) deadline.

State buys former BIX Produce Co. building to potentially store bodies

Credit: AP
Ecolab CEO Doug Baker, left; Minnesota Department of Administration Commissioner Alice Roberts-Davis; and Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz attend a news conference about the role of public-private partnerships in Minnesota's fight against COVID-19, Monday, April 20, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. (Scott Takushi/Pioneer Press via AP, Pool)

Department of Administration Commissioner Alice Roberts-Davis said during the daily coronavirus briefing on Tuesday that her agency has closed on the purchase of a former grocery distribution warehouse in St. Paul that will be converted into a temporary morgue for COVID-19 victims. The state paid $5.4 million for the BIX Produce Company cold storage warehouse, and plans upgrades that will raise the total cost to $6.9 million, Roberts-Davis said. The state expects the federal government to cover 75% of the cost. The goal was to find a place for the “timely, dignified, and temporary storage of human remains” at the peak of the pandemic this summer, when the state's modeling suggests the disease could cause an additional 1,000 deaths per week over four to five weeks, according to the commissioner's funding request. Private and public mortuaries statewide have a surge capacity for only about 2,000 more bodies than they would normally hold, she wrote. The warehouse can hold 5,100.

WEATHER: Warming up!

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