ALBANY, Minn. — Dozens of people came out to support business owner Kris Schiffler at his bar and restaurant in Albany on Monday, May 18, after he announced he planned to open in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order that kept Minnesotan restaurants closed until June, 1.
Stearns County Judge William Cashman ordered a temporary restraining order blocking Schiffler from opening his string of restaurants in the county in response to a lawsuit filed by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison that sought to fine Schiffler up to $25,000 for violating the executive order.
While Schiffler didn’t 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 said.
Olafson owns Metal Fab Machinery, Inc, in Cold Spring, Minn., and she said while her business was considered an essential and they haven’t had to lay any people off, people aren’t buying her products.
As far as the lawsuit from against Schiffler, “It’s bullshit,” Olafson said.
Melissa Blenkush and Cindy Mies, both hair stylists who work for a salon in St. Joseph, Minn., and were with Olafson, said they’ve been out of work for two months.
“We still have bills to pay,” Mies said.
Blenkush added that she only just got approved for unemployment last week.
“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’s 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.
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, they’re considered an essential business.
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.