Defiant restaurant owner urged to take COVID more seriously

Marshall Area Peace Seekers deliver leaflets in Lynd two days before SWHHS meeting on license suspension

Photo by Sam Thiel Darwin Dyce, left, of the Marshall Area Peace Seekers group talks with Haven’s Garden owner Larvita McFarquhar at her restaurant on Monday. Dyce distributed informational leaflets to McFarquhar to help encourage people to support local restaurants in safer ways such as buying take-out food or gift cards as well as promoting distancing and wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

LYND — Two days before Southwest Health and Human Services takes up the appeal of her food service license suspension, the owner of a Lynd restaurant in defiance of Minnesota’s Gov. Tim Walz’s executive shutdown order was urged by a local activist organization to consider safer ways to do business.

“We’re trying to use more of a carrot approach but clearly we’re concerned about the spread of COVID and we want to honor the restrictions,” said Darwin Dyce, one of the leaders of the Marshall Area Peace Seekers. Dyce and other members of the organization delivered informational leaflets to Larvita McFarquhar, the owner of Haven’s Garden restaurant in Lynd and restaurant goers

“We understand the tremendous difficulty it is for a restaurant business but yet there’s a reason for having the restrictions there because it’s so much easier to transmit such things,” Dyce said.

Haven’s Garden hosted an event featuring food and music on Nov. 27. Under a current executive order, Minnesota bars and restaurants are supposed to be closed for dine-in service through Dec. 18.

On Wednesday, McFarquhar posted photos of a food and beverage inspection report from Southwest Health and Human Services. The report calls for the restaurant to cease operations after 80 to 100 people were observed eating and drinking inside on Nov. 27, and suspends its food license.

The report says McFarquhar has 10 working days to file a request to appeal the suspension. The report also says SWHHS will charge a re-inspection fee for followup inspections. Under Lyon County ordinances, operating a restaurant with a suspended license can be punished by a fine of up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail.

The Southwest Health and Human Services board will be holding a meeting at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Commissioners Room at the Government Center, where they will discuss the suspension.

Dyce said the Marshall Area Peace Seekers visited the restaurant to encourage people to support local restaurants in safer ways such as buying take-out food or gift cards. Dyce said while they understand it’s an extremely tough time for local businesses and restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic, they need to continue to take the virus seriously and honor the restrictions.

“We wanted to give her this gift bag that basically talks about if customers had some of these (leaflets) it could encourage them to order take-out, to avoid eating in restaurants during restrictions and to purchase gift cards and then to tip the staff generously,” Dyce said. “We clearly know this is such a tough time for all of the businesses and around here the restaurants are complying with the exception of this one and it’s also not fair to them. I know it’s a strain on the business but the sooner everybody does their part, the sooner we can get things moving again and get the economy going again.”

Dyce said he hopes that everybody can work together and help bring the numbers down so the state can reopen things again.

“I’m hoping that by somebody coming forward and speaking it out, it helps other people find their voice and get the attention of other community members who maybe aren’t taking COVID very seriously and unwittingly transmitting the pandemic,” he said. “Hopefully it’s just modeling that I don’t need to be a disease expert to know what’s going on and also to say ‘Let’s all work together and bring the numbers down so that businesses like this can reopen safely and schools can get going back together again.'”

McFarquhar said she appreciated Dyce delivering his message and hopes they can have future conversations with one another.

“I told him I would send him some information about how masks hurt people. I will have a conversation with anyone. If they don’t agree with me, I have no problems talking to them, so I would love to sit down and talk with him,” McFarquhar said.

McFarquhar also said she hopes she would be allowed to go present her case to public health officials on Wednesday. SWHHS Environmental Health Manager Jason Kloss said he wasn’t sure whether the meeting would be open to the public.

“I’ll have to do some calls to see if I’m allowed to go down there and speak. I would just like to present them with the things I look at and hopefully they’re open to looking at other science instead of just looking at what comes out of the government,” McFarquhar said. “But even if they went off of what the CDC says, they said that schools should be open and we should be open. So I’m just hoping they will hear me and I can get some people to come down and give them some good information.”

McFarquhar added the last few days have seen a lot of ups and downs, with the hardest part being not knowing what could come next on any given day. She said things just need to open back up again and people can continue to live their lives not in fear.

“It’s up-and-down, especially with not knowing who’s going to come out here and not knowing if you’re going to be arrested or what’s going to happen. It’s a little scary but I try to not think about it too much and I just stay freed up and try to do what the Lord places on me to do.

“The last couple of days we’ve had the health department come and then we had the deputy from the Sheriff’s Department come and just the different calls and the threats and I get people calling and yelling at me and stuff like that,” McFarquhar said.

“I just want everyone to open up and start living their lives and stop living in fear and know that we’re supposed to take care of our bodies, our minds and our spirit. People are hurting and dying from the decisions the governor is making. Not about trying to keep us safe, that’s totally different. People are dying, losing their businesses, schools aren’t staying open and we need to say enough is enough and we need to stand and come together and start living.”


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