Alibi Drinkery owners won’t face criminal charges over pandemic opening; other legal issues mount

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    Alibi Drinkery, which flouted Gov. Tim Walz’s restrictions on bars and restaurants during the worst of the pandemic this winter, will face no criminal charges, the Lakeville city attorney informed state officials this week. 

    Alibi Drinkery and its owners repeatedly ran afoul of the shutdown order, serving patrons indoors in crowded conditions even after ordered to stop by the Department of Public Safety, only relenting when a judge declared the owners in contempt of court and ordered them to pay a fine of $3,000 per day.   

    The Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division sent a report and misdemeanor prosecution request to the city of Lakeville, whose city attorney is the firm Campbell Knutson. 

    Attorney Elliott Knetsch wrote to DPS, noting that the Lakeville city attorney has worked with DPS on its civil enforcement actions, before adding, “We have no evidence of any ongoing violations. We do not believe criminal prosecution is needed to obtain an additional deterrent effect, or additional court control over Alibi’s owners.” 

    By contrast, the owner of the Interchange Wine & Coffee Bar in Albert Lea was charged with multiple misdemeanors by the city attorney there after opening during pandemic restrictions.

    Epidemiologists say COVID-19, which has killed nearly 7,000 Minnesotans, has spread in indoor super spreader venues, including bars. 

    Despite the reprieve from the city of Lakeville, Alibi’s owners have other legal trouble on multiple fronts. 

    A Dakota County district judge ruled that Lisa Monet Zarza, a co-owner, must appear Thursday to explain why she’s not in contempt of court for disobeying an order in which he told Alibi to stop operating without a license.

    Also, an administrative law judge recently handed DPS a victory, granting a summary disposition that allows the department to revoke Alibi’s license.

    Alibi’s other co-owner, Ricardo M. Baldazo, has been charged with shooting at police officers and smacking a manager of a Jimmy John’s

    Messages left with Zarza and the Lakeville city attorney were not immediately returned. 

    J. Patrick Coolican
    J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and toddler son.