What science is telling Gov. Walz that bars on reservations are safe but bars off them are not?

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A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I went to Treasure Island Casino & Resort. With Minnesota’s bars and restaurants closed since November 20th by the order of Governor Walz, the place was doing a roaring trade. We had to drive round the parking lot twice to find a space. Once inside, the place was heaving. The bars were open and doing good business. Not all of the restaurants were open, but you could have sit down, indoor meal at Currents Restaurant. Apart from the masks, it was like going back in time to 2019.

This must be hard to take for Minnesota’s struggling bars and restaurants. The Pioneer Press reports on one, Larvita McFarquhar, a single mother of four daughters who has operated the Haven’s Garden restaurant and cafe in Lynd since 2017:

When Gov. Tim Walz ordered bars and restaurants to shut down on Nov. 18 for all but take-out and delivery, McFarquhar advertised an open mic night, though her live musician later backed out under threat of fines. Some 80 to 100 guests attended at a time.

As far as she’s concerned, the governor’s orders are unconstitutional, and she explained as much to the official who called from the county sheriff’s office asking her to reconsider. Coffee cups and Tuesday-night taco bowls in hand, she then stood her proverbial ground against a cease-and-desist letter from the Minnesota Attorney General’s office.


When the Minnesota Department of Health took her to court and won a temporary restraining order against her on Dec. 12, McFarquhar told her attorney that Haven’s would remain a burger haven, court order or no court order.

On Dec. 18, Ramsey County District Court Judge Sara Grewing found her guilty of civil contempt and fined McFarquhar and Haven’s Garden $250 per day.

The fine will remain in place as long as she remains open for indoor dining in defiance of the governor’s shutdown orders.

The state government argues that restaurants like Haven’s Garden need to be closed to stop the spread of Covid-19. Larvita McFarquhar, and others, are, they argue, regrettable but necessary collateral damage.

It is bad enough that the state government’s own data actually contradicts this argument. But how does ‘the science’ which Gov. Walz claims to be following tell him that Covid-19 can spread at Haven’s Garden but not as Currents? At a press conference last week, the administration explained:

We at the Center certainly do not think that bars and restaurants like those at Treasure Island should close. The data, after all, show that such venues are relatively safe and local government should be respected.

But it is hard to understand why a state government that can stamp on small businesses with such barely concealed glee cannot bring itself to even request that tribal governments join in the battle against Covid-19. Surely he would if that was what ‘the science’ was telling him to do? They did their bit when asked to back in March. Aren’t we all in this together? Or are some in it more than others?

This is not the first time that Gov. Walz’ administration had acted in such a fashion, favoring some over others. As I wrote before: “‘One Minnesota’ is a smart slogan. That is all it is.”

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment.