Lakeville bar opens again to defiant crowd; state sues over COVID order – Twin Cities

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The prospect of a two-month liquor license suspension was not enough to stop a Lakeville bar from serving up drinks and food to another packed house Thursday, a day after state officials notified the business they intend to take action for “blatantly” defying Gov. Tim Walz’s order closing bars and restaurants to indoor dining.

On Thursday, the heat was turned up on Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville and Neighbors on the Rum in Princeton when Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced his office has filed lawsuits against both businesses in an attempt to get them to obey the executive order.

Later Thursday, as a next step in the lawsuit, Ellison said his office has a motion for a temporary restraining order against Alibi Drinkery to force them to close.

“Immediate and irreparable injury will result if the State is required to wait until Alibi Drinkery can be fully heard in opposition to the State’s request for temporary injunctive relief,” Ellison said in a Thursday statement.

The court action follows Wednesday night’s announcement that the state Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division intends to suspend the liquor licenses of the two businesses for 60 days, pending a hearing before an administrative law judge, for violating Walz’s executive order.

Neighbors on the Rum voluntarily closed for on-premises dining and is complying with the executive order, Ellison noted Thursday.

Ellison said that Alibi Drinkery’s co-owner Lisa Monet Zarza was asked in a media interview what she would do if state officials asked her to close and that she responded by saying she would “see them in court.”

“The businesses we’re holding accountable today know what they need to do to comply with the law and instead they’re flouting it,” Ellison said. “I don’t enjoy using the enforcement tools I have, but it’s my job to protect Minnesotans and I will use them to hold violators accountable and keep Minnesotans safe.”

Walz announced Wednesday that he is extending through early January a ban on indoor service by bars and restaurants, which has been in place since November amid an increase in COVID-19 cases.

That didn’t stop Alibi Drinkery, which is among a group of establishments across the state that reportedly opened for indoor dining and drinking despite the ban. Following months of operating at reduced capacity, they say, the ban pushed their finances to the brink.

A two-minute video posted on Zarza’s personal Facebook page from Wednesday night shows unmasked patrons toasting and singing, Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA.”

On Thursday morning, Alibi’s Facebook page said they would be open again.

“Open today. Come on in for food and drinks!,” the post exclaimed. By 1 p.m., the post had generated more than 1,400 comments from backers and critics.

Outside, Zarza spoke with media outlets, calling the mandate unconstitutional.

“I put a big fat bullseye on our back for a reason,” she told a KARE-11 reporter, “because I know they’re going to come after every single business anyways and I wanted to make sure I had thousands of supporters here showing us that they support us.”

The defiance was not Zarza’s first protest against Walz’s executive order. On Dec. 4, the bar held an “Open Our State Protest” outside the bar.

In its lawsuits against the bar/restaurants, the attorney general’s office asked the court to declare that their actions constitute violations of the executive order and impose civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation or threatened violation of the executive order.

According to city of Lakeville records, Zarza and co-owner Ricardo Baldazo were first granted a liquor license in January 2018. The application states the building — located along Holyoke Avenue in the city’s historic downtown area — has seating for approximately 80 patrons, while the outdoor patio seats 40.

Alibi’s annual license is scheduled to be back up for renewal on June 30.

CO-OWNER ACCUSED OF RECENTLY SHOOTING AT OFFICERS

In September, Baldazo was charged in Dakota County District Court with two counts of attempted murder and two counts of assault after allegedly luring Burnsville police officers to his mother’s home and shooting at them from the window.

Baldazo, 39, of Prior Lake, allegedly made a 911 call saying someone had broken into his house and was holding him at gunpoint. He then hung up.

When officers arrived, his mother was outside and said everything was fine. She said Baldazo had come to the house about 4 a.m. because he got into a fight with his girlfriend and that he appeared to be acting normally.

Baldazo’s brother soon arrived and said Baldazo was inside the house, was high and had guns with him, according to prosecutors.

Shortly after, gunshots could be heard coming from inside the house. The two officers took cover outside, as bullets whizzed by them.

A few minutes later, Baldazo was seen jumping from a window while holding two loaded handguns, according to court records. Police ordered him to drop the weapons and he did. He was taken to the hospital.

Inside the home, officers spotted several bullet holes in the walls, six spent casings and two live rounds.

Baldazo, who posted $750,000 bond, has a March 9 court hearing on the charges. His attorney declined to comment Thursday because the case is pending.

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