State attempt to revoke liquor license is rebuffed

As a part of Governor Tim Walz’s draconian efforts to enforce his targeted shutdown of Minnesota businesses by executive order, he employed the use of every agency at his disposal. One such effort involved the use of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (“Department”), a state agency that among other duties is responsible for enforcing laws and rules establishing standards and conditions for providing alcoholic beverages for commercial sale or consumption.

The Interchange Bistro possessed licenses for the sale of alcoholic beverages. Walz’s executive order directed that restaurants bars and other places of public accommodation be closed to the public except upon certain conditions. Those certain conditions effectively foreclosed a profitable operation of the business upon which it was licensed to operate.

The Interchange defied the executive order and maintained the operation of its business as usual. The Department is authorized to revoke a license up to 60 days and impose a civil penalty of up to $2,000 for each violation if the business fails to comply with an applicable statute, rule, or ordinance relating to alcoholic beverages. However, before the Department may take such action, the business must be given an opportunity for an administrative hearing. The Interchange continued to operate in spite of the 60 day suspension notice. The Department upped the ante to revoke the license for a period of five years.

The Interchange filed a response with the Office of Administrative Hearings alleging among other elements of fraud that the Department was not authorized to enforce an executive order as it was not a “statute, rule, or ordinance relating to alcoholic beverages” upon which the Department could enforce under the applicable statute. The Administrative Law Judge agreed with the Interchange and denied the Department’s motion for summary judgment.

The Department took advantage of a provision to place this issue of law before the Commissioner to continue the proceedings as certified by the Administrative Law Judge. Ultimately, further proceedings were canceled and the contested case was dismissed — notably without admission that the Department was unauthorized to enforce the executive orders by way of license suspension/revocation. .

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