Bar that defied shutdown gets liquor license over sheriff and prosecutor’s objections

The Stearns County Board has sent a clear signal that it wants to put hard feelings over the pandemic to rest by renewing the liquor license of one of the first Minnesota bars and restaurants to defy Gov. Tim Walz’s shutdown last year.

But the Star Tribune reports the commissioners acted to approve the license over the objections of the sheriff and the county attorney in the central Minnesota county.

Despite an ongoing lawsuit over a bar owner’s plans to open during the in-person dining shutdown last May, doors are still open at multiple Shady’s sites in central Minnesota.

The Stearns County Board approved Tuesday the liquor license for the upcoming year at Shady’s Long Shots in Cold Spring — even though the county attorney and sheriff declined to sign the renewal application — and Albany City Council approved Wednesday the liquor license renewal for Shady’s Hometown Tavern and Event Center.

Stearns County’s top law enforcement authorities aren’t the only ones that can’t let go. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison continues to pursue charges against Shady’s proprietor Kris Schiffler in addition to four other bar and restaurants around the state.

On May 18, 2020, Attorney General Keith Ellison’s office went to court and got a temporary restraining order preventing the opening, threatening penalties of up to $25,000 per violation, prompting Schiffler to tell a crowd of several hundred supporters gathered outside the Albany bar he wouldn’t defy the order on the advice of his lawyer.

The lawsuit against Schiffler involves a different Shady’s establishment that’s located in northwestern Minnesota, far from Stearns County. But you’d never know it by the effort put out by the county attorney and sheriff to keep Schiffler from getting the license that’s vital to his business.

Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall and Sheriff Steve Soyka told the County Board on Tuesday they didn’t feel comfortable signing the renewal application, but said they understood the board has the authority to grant the license.

“Since the liquor license holder is still in active litigation regarding following the law, we felt it appropriate to point that out to the board,” Kendall said, adding, “We obviously have many, many other liquor license holders in Stearns County who have followed these rules.”

Most Minnesotans want to put the shutdown and its devastating consequences behind them. Perhaps it’s time for all public officials to follow the example set by the Stearns County Board and Albany City Council and do the same thing.