Crow Wing County restaurant fined for reopening, liquor license suspended

MERRIFIELD, Minn. — Minnesota’s Attorney General’s office takes action against a Crow Wing County restaurant for violating Gov. Tim Walz’s order prohibiting indoor dining.

After nearly two decades of working in the hospitality industry, Jeff McCulloch never expected this is where owning a restaurant would take him.

“My last straw was when my employees were filing for unemployment and they were getting denied,” he recalls. “When they have no way of making money and to pay their bills, and to watch them struggle, that was the last– I couldn’t take that anymore.”

That’s when he decided Mission Tavern Bar & Grill would open its doors to the community, despite the potential consequences of defying Gov. Walz’s executive order.

“I was afraid but I accepted that it might happen, and when it was going to happen to just deal with it and move on,” says McCulloch. “I expected the fine to be there and did not expect the suspension of the license and all this other stuff that’s going to go along with it.”

After opening up on November 25th and again last Friday, Mission Tavern now faces a $10,000 fine and liquor license suspension.

A GoFundMe page has been created to raise money for legal fees, but the support for McCulloch and his restaurant hasn’t stopped there.

“It truly is a family here,” he says. “I mean, I have people that have been driving by today just to give me a $100 bill to say they’ll do anything to help out, and they’re driving from 20 miles away, from two hours away; it’s crazy.”

In a statement, Minnesota Department of Health Assistant Commissioner Dan Huff says small business owners operating out of compliance can put at risk the health of employees and customers.

McCulloch says precautions like plexiglass and social distancing can make way for his bar to operate safely.

Donations from near and far are pouring in from people who want to see him do just that.

“It’s insane. It’s really crazy,” McCulloch says. “It makes you teary-eyed thinking about it, that people are that supportive to fight this cause.”

McCulloch says donations will be used to pay the Tavern’s legal fees, and any remaining funds will be donated to the ReOpen Minnesota Coalition and local charities.

Categories: Business, Coronavirus-MN, Local News, Minnesota News