Walz urged to improve ‘tone and approach’ toward businesses

Swedzinski joins 50 other Republicans in sending letter to Gov. Walz

ST. PAUL — Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, is among more than 50 Republican lawmakers urging Gov. Tim Walz and state agencies to improve their relations with businesses amid efforts to combat COVID-19.

Swedzinski and fellow House Republicans filed the request through a letter to Walz on Monday. It is in response to a letter the Minnesota Department of Health and Department of Labor and Industry issued last week informing hospitality industry leaders of stepped-up state compliance checks that could result in fines, forced closure loss of liquor license, workplace investigations, and more.

“The adversarial relationship this administration is causing with our state’s hospitality industry needs to change,” Swedzinski said. “This is especially true in regions such as ours, where many customers are simply choosing to cross the border. We already have been hearing stories about inspectors harassing diners at their table about not doing enough to follow the governor’s personal orders.

“Now, the state’s sending punitive threats to our bars and restaurants is even more concerning. Minnesota’s government agencies should be operating as a partner of businesses to help them through this difficult time and regain stability instead of making threats. The intent of our letter is to deliver that message to the governor. I hope it opens his eyes because our businesses are suffering the consequences of the bad relationship the governor and his administration have created. Our workers deserve better.”

In response to the threat of the stepped-up compliance checks, some Marshall restaurant and bar owners said Monday they have been trying to educate customers when needed, as well as taking other precautions.

“We’re telling people not to congregate,” as well as watching crowd size, said Jeremy Labat, general manager at the Gambler in Marshall.

“We’re just trying to do everything in our power to keep our employees and customers safe,” said Varsity Pub and Extra Innings general manager Brenna Ahlquist.

The letter by Republicans cited estimates from Hospitality Minnesota that claim just 2.3% of total state cases have been traced back to restaurants and bars, and there have been just over two dozen restaurants specifically identified as sources of outbreaks.

According to the Swedzinski press release, Walz previously has stated that enforcement of state mandates and regulations were to be education in nature rather than punitive. The letter urges Walz to “reassess the tone and approach your agencies are taking” with restaurants and bars, and urges state agencies to be partners rather than adversaries in efforts to combat COVID-19.

“If bad actors are knowingly and flagrantly putting customers and employees at risk, those should be addressed on a case-by-case basis. However, sweeping inspections and heavy-handed punishments to businesses who are dong their best to stay afloat and to comply with state regulations are unacceptable,” the letter said.


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