ST. PAUL — The end may be near for the more than two-year court battle over pandemic-era executive order violations between the Minnesota Department of Health and former operator of Iron Waffle Coffee Co. .
The Minnesota Attorney General’s office filed a motion April 20 seeking summary judgment in the ongoing lawsuit regarding the company’s continued operations despite the revocation of its food and beverage license. Seeking judgment in its favor to avoid a lawsuit, the health department said the fact that the facility continued to open its doors without a license was undisputed.
“Despite multiple court orders ordering Defendant to cease operating his unlicensed restaurant establishment, Defendant continued to operate his unlicensed business in violation of Minnesota laws…which the Commissioner is empowered to enforce,” the memorandum from law in support of the stated motion.
“… It is undisputed that the defendant is aware of the licensing requirements, is aware of the status of his license and yet has repeatedly remained open for unlicensed catering service. The defendant’s conduct constitutes a willful violation of Minnesota statutes. »
Stacy Stranne, who was the owner at the time of the violations, no longer operates the business. On April 12, Iron Waffle announced in a Facebook post that it would reopen on April 15 under new management. A health department spokesperson has confirmed the issuance of a new food and beverage license to S and S Waffle and Coffee LLC, a Pillager-based company that filed as a Minnesota company. February 1.
The lawsuit – first initiated in December 2020 – was the next step at the time after months of inspections, fines and other administrative action failed to stop the company from disobeying the executive orders. pandemic-related executives regarding the use of masks and indoor dining restrictions while continuing to operate. The health department revoked Stranne’s food and beverage license after she failed to correct the violations.
The judges presiding over the case have since granted the state’s motions for a temporary injunction and a finding of contempt of court from June 2021 for Stranne to continue to open and sell food and drink, although she doesn’t have a license. So far, the company faces $120,000 in fines, or $2,000 for each day the health department documented the Iron Waffle opening after the license was revoked.
Attorney Richard Dahl, who represents Stranne, appealed. Dahl argued that the health department failed to properly notify Stranne of the license revocation, which deprived him of the ability to challenge the action through an administrative hearing. He also argued that the Department of Health lacked the authority to revoke food and beverage licenses in response to violations of Governor Tim Walz’s executive orders in the first place.
The state countered these arguments, saying the basis of the lawsuit was the unlicensed operation of Iron Waffle, not the grounds for the revocation.
In late February, the Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected Dahl’s arguments accusing the Ramsey County District Court of abusing its discretion and upheld the rulings.
In its most recent motion, the health department proposed a permanent injunction restraining the defendant, “as well as their successors, agents, employees, and others working in concert or in active participation with them who receive effective notice” , to operate the business without first obtaining a license. The motion also asks the court to require payment of the $9,500 administrative penalty first issued in September 2020 and allow the Department of Health to recover litigation costs and expenses.
The summary judgment motion hearing is scheduled to take place via Zoom at 1:30 p.m. on May 18.