The Minnesota Department of Health said Saturday that it has filed a lawsuit against the owners of the Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville for operating as a food and beverage service without a license.
The suit, filed Friday in Dakota County District Court, is the latest in a series of regulatory actions by state agencies and the Attorney General's Office against the establishment, which continued to operate in December and early January in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz's order prohibiting on-site dining at bars and restaurants in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Walz first issued the order Nov. 18. He later extended it to run through Jan. 10 before easing some restrictions on bars and restaurants.
State health officials notified Alibi Drinkery on Dec. 22 that its license to operate as a food and beverage service establishment would be suspended after 20 days, according to a Health Department statement Saturday. Separately, that license expired on Dec. 31, the department said.
Yet the bar and restaurant has remained open.
"We do not take enforcement actions lightly," said Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff 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 co-owner Lisa Monet Zarza could not be reached for comment Saturday morning.
Zarza initially complied with Walz's Nov. 18 order, but later advertised the club would reopen Dec. 15.
After it reopened, Attorney General Keith Ellison sued the eatery, and a judge issued a temporary restraining order and a temporary injunction ordering it to comply with Walz's directive. The restaurant closed after the state obtained the restraining order, but reopened again on New Year's Eve day in violation of notices and regulatory actions, and has stayed open since.
Earlier this month, a Dakota County judge found Alibi's owners in contempt of court for remaining open despite the court order to close because of the pandemic. At the time, the eatery's owners were ordered to pay a fine of $3,000 for every day they allowed indoor dining.
"The vast majority of businesses are doing their best to help slow down the spread of COVID-19," Huff said. "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."
Walz eased restrictions on bars and restaurants earlier this month after COVID-19 infections began to decline across the state. Starting Jan. 11, those businesses could once again provide indoor service, but at 50% capacity and with 10 p.m. curfews and caps of six-person tables and two-person bar groups spread 6 feet apart.
Meanwhile, a hearing is scheduled for Feb. 3 regarding the state's request to revoke Alibi's liquor license for five years.