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Over 150 Minnesota restaurants and bars plan to defy COVID-19 restrictions

Coronavirus vaccinations begin in the U.S.
Coronavirus vaccinations begin in the U.S. 06:22

A group Minnesota bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses plan to defy COVID-19 restrictions if they are extended on Wednesday. The Reopen Minnesota Coalition, made up of over 150 Minnesota businesses, called the restrictions a "gross injustice" for the community. 

The goal of the coalition is "to provide a little bit of peace and prosperity to these owners and their desperate employees as we approach Christmas," coalition founder Darius Teichroew told CBS News. 

Under a November 20 "dial back" order, all bars and restaurants in the state were required to cease indoor and outdoor dining service and operate with takeout or delivery only. All fitness centers were also closed, while sports practices and competitions were postponed. 

The four-week restrictions are set to expire Friday. Governor Tim Walz is expected to make an announcement Wednesday on whether the state's recent trends are good enough to remove restrictions, or if the state requires additional weeks of lockdown. If restrictions are eased, the Reopen Minnesota Coalition will still obey health guidelines like mask-wearing and lower capacity. 

The governor's communications director said Tuesday night that Walz's plan will include "keeping indoor dining at bars and restaurants on pause through the holiday season," according to CBS Minnesota. He added that the plan will "help bridge the gap to vaccination." 

Regardless of what Walz announces, group members who own restaurants and bars plan to open their businesses for in-person dining. The coalition said some businesses will still operate with "reasonable restrictions" they were following before the shutdown, such as reduced capacity and mask mandates. 

If cited by law enforcement, business owners caught violating the extended "dial back" order could be charged with a misdemeanor, and forced to pay a $1,000 fine, or face 90 days in jail. According to Teichreoew, the businesses owners involved "understand" they might face jail time, "but they love their families and their employees more." 

Lisa Monet Zarza, a bar owner and member of the coalition, told CBS Minnesota, "My heart breaks for anybody that has lost someone to COVID or wasn't able to see a person that they loved because of the shutdowns and restrictions on the hospitals."

"And we would never say that COVID isn't real, but we need to be open," Zarza added.

"At the end of the day, people just want to feed their families, care for their employees, provide for their communities," said Teichroew

Since March, more than 375,398 Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19, and 4,359 residents have died, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. At least 19,428 people have been hospitalized since the start of the pandemic, and four regions in the had over 85% of their critical care beds in use at the time of the dial back order, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

In a press conference, Walz addressed those who have plans to defy the order, acknowledging that COVID-19 has impacted small businesses the most, but stating that ignoring health rules only puts others at risk. 

"I understand where you're at, but you also have to understand from [health workers'] perspective, every time we [defy orders], that makes their jobs harder," said Walz. 

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