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Court affirms fines against bars who violated COVID mask mandate

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MINNEAPOLIS — A Minnesota appeals court panel has sided with the state health department over fines against bars that violated emergency safety orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

The three judges, in a ruling issued Monday, affirmed the health department's authority to suspend the bars' license and levy fines.

The operators of two of the many bars that violated Gov. Tim Walz's face mask mandate had appealed health officials' actions against them.

The health department issued a $10,000 fine and a 30-day license suspension against Norm's Wayside in Buffalo and its operator, Norm Sugden, for repeatedly ignoring the order.

For Kevin McColluch and Mission Tavern in Merrifield, the health department let an administrative law judge decide the penalty, which was a 20-day license suspension and a $5,000 fine, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

The bar operators acknowledged they ignored the governor's orders, arguing the mandate was unconstitutional because it lacked a rational basis. They also challenged the health department's authority to enforce the orders.

The bar operators' attorney, Richard Dahl, said the appeals court ruling doesn't settle the matter.

"We're going to sue them in federal court after we get done. I may even sue some judges. This is the beginning of this war," he said.

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