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Minnesota Department of Health files lawsuit against Alibi Drinkery for operating without a license

The controversial Lakeville establishment had previously been fined and held in contempt after staying open despite COVID-19 restrictions.
Credit: KARE

After weeks of controversy and court action, Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville now faces a lawsuit from the Minnesota Department of Health for operating without a license. 

MDH filed the lawsuit Jan. 22 in district court, it said in a Saturday press release. The department said it notified Alibi Drinkery on Dec. 22 that its "license to operate as a food and beverage service establishment" would be suspended after 20 days. Additionally, MDH said that license expired on Dec. 31, 2020. 

Despite its lack of license, MDH said the bar kept operating in violation of Minn. Stat. § 157.16. 

On its own Facebook page, Alibi Drinkery repeatedly advertised that it was open and operating. "Happy hour is back at Alibi!" it posted on Jan. 19. "Not kidding! Monday thru Friday 11am to 1pm and Sunday thru Thursday 8pm to 10pm.  $1 off all drinks and beers!"

This is not the first regulatory action Alibi Drinkery has faced from Minnesota officials. When Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order prohibiting in-person dining at bars and restaurants, it was one of dozens of businesses vowing to reopen. 

"We're not saying that COVID isn't real, we're not saying that, but the implications of everything involved with COVID are so much more than just what's being reported," Alibi Drinkery owner Lisa Monet Zarza said in December. 

Later that month, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced lawsuits against Alibi Drinkery and several other businesses that fully reopened despite the executive order. The action faced criticism from Minnesota GOP lawmakers. 

"We're here to bring hope," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said in a December news conference. "And it's hope that they can make it through this, and hope that we can convince the governor and the attorney general that they have to relent."

In early January, the Dakota County District Court found Alibi Drinkery in contempt of court. It imposed a $3,000 fine for every day the bar remained open in violation of the governor's executive order.

While announcing MDH's lawsuit against Alibi Drinkery Saturday, health officials thanked the businesses that cooperated with COVID-19 restrictions.

“The vast majority of businesses are doing their best to help slow down the spread of COVID-19,” said Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff. “Establishments who operated in defiance do not get a free pass. Thousands of other bars and restaurants made sacrifices for the protection of our public health, and we are grateful for their cooperation and selflessness.”

Huff added that even without a pandemic, the licensing of bars and restaurants is a "basic public health measure."

“We do not take enforcement actions lightly,” he said.

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