Minnesota businesses plan to reopen early in protest of pandemic restrictions

An informal group of small businesses in Minnesota plans to defy state coronavirus pandemic safety guidelines and reopen prematurely this week.
Calling itself the ReOpen Minnesota Coalition, the group is plotting the move as Gov. Tim Walz weighs whether to re-impose restrictions on bars, restaurants and other public-facing businesses. Curfews and capacity limits went back into effect last month amid a statewide increase in cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, and are set to expire Friday.
The group is calling on businesses in rural Minnesota to reopen Wednesday and for businesses in the Twin Cities metro area to reopen Friday.
“If you have been waiting to take a stand for something during COVID, now is the time that your voice can be heard,” the group said in a Facebook post last week.
In-person dining and large-scale weddings, funeral receptions and other gatherings are not allowed under the restrictions Walz put in place last month, which also include business curfews. Health officials cited the number of COVID-19 cases linked to bars, restaurants and social gatherings when announcing the restrictions.
But the group said caseloads linked to such things are not substantial enough to warrant the rules small business owners have had to follow since then, many of whom the group said cannot afford to operate under these circumstances for much longer. Owners of one restaurant in East Grand Forks, Minn., had similar reasons for reopening in defiance of the restrictions last week, something that ultimately led to the suspension of their liquor license and to their being sued by the state Attorney General’s Office.
In anticipation of similar legal reprisal, meanwhile, the reopening group also established an online defense fund to help protesting businesses with legal expenses that they may incur. The attorney general’s office could not immediately be reached for comment on whether it would take action against the group.
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