EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. -- Boardwalk Bar and Grill, an East Grand Forks restaurant along the Red River, has been fined and will close for a month early next year for violating Minnesota's statewide mandates during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced the penalty in a news release Friday, Nov. 19. The release said Ellison's office "has settled lawsuits against two businesses that violated or threatened to violate executive orders during the COVID-19 peacetime emergency."
Aside from Boardwalk, penalties also were announced for Shady's, a chain that operates six locations in Stearns, Benton and Todd counties.
Per the attorney general's Friday release, as part of a consent judgment, Boardwalk Bar and Grill will pay $25,000 for violations of Emergency Executive Order 20-99. Boardwalk also must serve a 30-day suspension of its liquor and food and beverage licenses in separate settlements it entered into with the Minnesota Departments of Public Safety and Health.
Boardwalk owner Jane Moss said Friday the business will be closed Jan. 17 to Feb. 16 to accommodate the penalty.
"We hope it's over," she said.
Boardwalk Bar and Grill reopened to dine-in customers in early December, despite Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order that banned it in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
“It is impossible to shut down, open up, shut down and move forward with everyone scared,” Boardwalk's owners wrote in a letter to city leaders at the time. “The arbitrary shutting down (of) selected businesses is definitely wrong.”
A Polk County judge eventually ordered Boardwalk to close.
Many in the community rallied behind Boardwalk, and WDAY-TV reported in March that at least $23,000 had been raised to help pay for the restaurant's legal bills that had accrued up to that time.
Moss became a central figure as many in the state fought back against the Walz order. She was interviewed by local and state media, as well as national outlets, such as the Fox News Channel's "Fox and Friends."
“I am right on the border of Grand Forks, N.D.,” she said on the Fox program. “Their business is open and it’s gutting my business.”
Later, she told WDAY that she didn't have much choice, and that staying open was the best way she could help the restaurant's staff during a difficult time.
"I did it for my employees," Moss said in a March interview. "They were suffering. They had nowhere to turn. Christmas was upon us. Rent was due, car payments, mortgages, presents."
Friday, she reiterated her interest in helping her employees.
"Absolutely," she said. "My employees were not getting their unemployment checks. That is what started all of this."
Moss said she was told there was a backlog, and that it would be two or three more weeks before her staff could get aid.
The penalty against the Shady's chain was $30,000, for threatening to violate Walz's emergency order.
According to the attorney general's release, "the AG's office obtained a temporary restraining order at the 11th hour, requiring Shady’s to not open its doors to the hundreds of members of the public that had gathered to participate in Shady’s illegal reopening. The court then issued a temporary injunction barring Shady’s from opening in violation of the executive order. Shady’s brought counterclaims against the governor and other state officials, all of which were dismissed following opposition from the Attorney General’s Office."
In August, the AG's office won summary judgment and was able to seek fees for its litigation costs.