Minnesota bar owner faces lawsuit by state for defying 'unconstitutional' COVID-19 restrictions

Minnesota bar owner on defying 'unconstitutional' COVID-19 restrictions

Lisa Monet Zarza, the co-owner of Alibi Drinkery, says ‘we knew what was at stake’ when she decided to reopen despite coronavirus restrictions.

Lisa Monet Zarza, the co-owner of Alibi Drinkery in Minnesota, told "Fox & Friends" on Monday that she decided to open despite coronavirus restrictions in the state because "our staff needed money" and she couldn’t get through another three-month shutdown.

Zarza added that she "knew what was at stake" when she decided to defy an indoor dining ban and now the Minnesota bar is being sued by the state.

The Minnesota Department of Health on Saturday filed a lawsuit against the restaurant and bar in Lakeville after Alibi Drinkery opened on Dec. 16 in spite of the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

MDH revoked Alibi's license to operate as a food and beverage service establishment 20 days following an initial warning on Dec. 22 after the restaurant continued to offer on-premises dining against Gov. Tim Walz's Nov. 18 executive order, according to MDH.

"We do not take enforcement actions lightly," Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff said in a statement. "Even when there is no pandemic, the public depends upon the licensing of bars and restaurants as a basic public health measure – which is why the legislature requires that bars and restaurants have an active license in order to serve the public."

Alibi's license reportedly expired on Dec. 31, and it has continued to operate without a license against state law, which prompted the lawsuit. Huff said that establishments operating in defiance of the state "do not get a free pass."

Zarza explained on Monday that "we decided to reopen after we’ve been shut down almost a month following a two-and-a-half month shutdown in the spring."

She added that when she reopened, "We were served with a temporary injunction, a restraining order, a lawsuit from the state and a contempt of court order from the judge in our county."

Zarza noted that she did not receive paperwork from MDH yet, and learned about the department revoking her license by reading about it.

"We also have a hearing in February regarding our liquor license," she said.

Walz issued order 20-99 barring restaurants and bars from offering on-premises dining when COVID-19 cases in Minnesota were spiking ahead of the holidays. He has since eased restrictions as case numbers started to fall slightly.

Zarza explained that she decided to reopen before Christmas because "unemployment was not doing it for any of our staff members."

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"We also did it because it's our right as a business owner to open and it was an unconstitutional executive order by our governor that singled restaurant industries out and shut us down with little to no data showing that we were the superspreaders that they were claiming," she added.

Responding to her critics who called her selfish for reopening amid the pandemic, Zarza said, "I have everything to lose by opening our business."

"The governor was talking about bringing relief for us. We didn't know when it was coming," she continued, adding that opening her business and "risking losing everything was probably one of the most selfless things that I have ever done in my life."

A spokesperson with Gov. Walz's did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

Zarza noted that while she had "thousands and thousands of people reaching out to us from all over the country and all over the world in support," there were also "thousands of people reaching out and telling us to kill ourselves, telling us we should die, our families should die, our employees should die."

Zarza also said her building was vandalized.

"It was insane," she said. "I just thought we were going to open up our restaurant, and our customers were going to come back in status quo and it was not at all what I thought was going to happen."

Beginning Sunday night on January 10, bars and restaurants were allowed to be open as long as they comply with the requirements included in the latest executive order, which states that "occupancy of any indoor space must not exceed 50% of the normal occupant capacity, up to a maximum of 150 people," according to MDH.

Zarza said, "We're still open," adding that even though now she can operate at 50% capacity, she is still "restricted" because she has to close the bar by 10 p.m.

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She noted that she typically does "a lot" of business from 10 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Fox Business’ Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.

Talia Kaplan Fox News