Supporters of Stearns County bar owner show up Monday even as he backs off reopening in defiance of state order
ALBANY — Dozens of people came out Monday to support business owner Kris Schiffler at his restaurant and bar in Albany after he announced he planned to open in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order that keeps such businesses closed until at least June 1.
A Stearns County judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking Schiffler from opening his string of restaurants in the county in response to a lawsuit filed by Minnesota Attorney Keith Ellison that sought to fine Schiffler up to $25,000 for violating the executive order.
While Schiffler did not open Shady’s Hometown Tavern in Albany for dine-in, the restaurant was still taking curbside orders Monday with multiple people standing outside to support him and his business.
“People have a choice. We have a constitution. If you’re affected, stay home. We’re not going to live in fear,” Lynda Olafson, of Cold Spring, said.
Olafson owns Metal Fab Machinery Inc. in Cold Spring and said while her business is considered essential, and they haven’t had to lay any people off, people are not buying her products.
Walz's original stay-at-home executive order signed March 25 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic exempted many sectors — including work such as health care, food, child care and law enforcement — but restaurants like Shady's had to remain closed. Walz's new executive order, effective May 18, allowed for further businesses to be opened as of Monday but kept restaurants, bars and hair salons closed. The deadline is Wednesday, May 20, for state guidance on safe reopening of those businesses, possibly starting June 1.
As far as the lawsuit against Schiffler, “It’s bull---,” Olafson said.
Melissa Blenkush and Cindy Mies, both hair stylists who work for a salon in St. Joseph and were with Olafson, said they have been out of work for two months.
“We still have bills to pay,” Mies said.
Blenkush added that she only last week received approval for unemployment benefits.
“I’m not worried about the coronavirus,” Paul Heidgerken, 80, said. “If I would be, I’ll stay home. I’m not gonna go anywhere. I’m just worried about the young people. They need jobs.”
Heidgerken said he is worried about his children and grandchildren because they aren’t working and have bills they need to pay.
“They got to keep the economy going,” Heidgerken said.
Heidgerken said the lawsuit against Schiffler and keeping businesses closed go against common sense.
“I know the coronavirus is scary for some people but then stay home,” Heidgerken said.
Part of the frustration for those that wish to open up more businesses is what they view as an arbitrary decision by governments to keep some businesses closed while others are able to continue to operate.
“We all stand together and I would support everything he does,” Kitty Eickhoff said of Schiffler.
Eickhoff owns Albany Country Floral, a floral shop which is just a few storefronts down from Shady’s, and has been in business for 21 years. According to Eickhoff, her business is considered essential.
Eickhoff said Schiffler had prepared for opening by providing masks, hand sanitizer and disposable menus and silverware.
Someone needs to stand up to the closures otherwise Albany’s recently rejuvenated Main Street is going to see multiple businesses close for good, according to Eickhoff.
“If one goes down, it’s a domino effect,” Eickhoff said.
The gathered crowd around Shady’s was a mix of people, none wearing masks or practicing social distancing, some with open beer cases next to them.
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