Fines increased for Haven’s Garden owner
MARSHALL — A Ramsey County judge has increased the fines against a Lynd restaurant owner for not complying with COVID-19 restrictions on bars and restaurants.
In a ruling issued Tuesday, Judge Sara Grewing found Larvita McFarquhar, owner of Haven’s Garden in Lynd, in civil contempt of court for not following previous orders to obey COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants. Starting Wednesday, McFarquhar would be fined $1,000 for each day Haven’s Garden is in violation of current executive orders, the ruling said.
However, in social media posts, McFarquhar said she plans to hold an event at Haven’s Garden on Friday, featuring live music and speakers including a conservative radio host and a former Arizona sheriff.
“For the judge to again rule against me is unbelievable,” McFarquhar said in a YouTube video posted Tuesday. In the video, McFarquhar called Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders on COVID-19 “an unconstitutional mandate I’d have to follow for the rest of my life.”
In the same video, McFarquhar made comments calling the 2020 U.S. presidential election unconstitutional. She also called on viewers to show support for an Alexandria pastor who sparked controversy by posting a social media video urging former President Donald Trump to enact martial law.
The Minnesota Department of Health sued Haven’s Garden after an indoor gathering featuring live music was held there in November, in defiance of executive orders from Walz. On Dec. 18, McFarquhar was found in civil contempt of court for not following a temporary restraining order against indoor gatherings, and was fined $250 for each day Haven’s Garden was in violation of COVID-19 restrictions.
Attorneys for the MDH requested that the fines be increased, but at a hearing last week, McFarquhar’s attorney said he should be allowed to examine witnesses in the case. The judge took the request under consideration.
Minnesota court records say Haven’s Garden has been assessed a total of $9,750 in $250 fines so far. None of those fines had been paid as of Wednesday afternoon, records said.
Court documents in McFarquhar’s case included an affidavit from a program manager for the food, pools and lodging services section of the MDH. The affidavit said representatives from the MDH and Southwest Health and Human Services took part in a phone call with McFarquhar on Jan. 19, to discuss the current executive orders affecting restaurants. While restaurants can now serve customers indoors, they can only do so at half capacity, and have rules about social distancing and limits on the number of people who can sit together.
The affidavit said it did not appear, based on their conversation, that McFarquhar had implemented a COVID-19 preparedness plan, and was not able to provide information on whether she was making reasonable accommodations for employees who could not wear face masks.
In her ruling on Tuesday, Judge Sara Grewing said it wouldn’t be productive to hold a hearing with witness examination. McFarquhar’s attorney hadn’t submitted any witness affidavits to rebut the ones already submitted by the MDH, the ruling said. The issue of whether the executive orders violated McFarquhar’s 14th Amendment rights is still under appeal. Furthermore, the ruling said McFarquhar “made it abundantly clear at the Jan. 22 hearing that she would not be complying with the court’s orders in the future.”
Grewing’s ruling found McFarquhar guilty of constructive civil contempt for violating the court’s earlier orders, and increased the fine to $1,000 for each day Haven’s Garden is in violation of current executive orders, starting Wednesday. If McFarquhar complies with court orders, the fines will stop.
The court documents and judge’s ruling do not reference it, but on Jan. 20 McFarquhar posted a 32-minute YouTube video showing her speaking to the MDH and SWHHS representatives, who appeared in a Zoom window on an open laptop. In the video, McFarquhar referenced an OSHA injury and illness prevention program, but did not say she had a COVID-19 preparedness plan. McFarquhar said she makes hand sanitizer available to customers, and had moved tables at Haven’s Garden six feet apart last spring. However, she did not know the customer capacity of Haven’s Garden. She also said she would not turn anyone away from her business for not wearing a mask, and that she does not wear a mask when she interacts with customers.
In the video, McFarquhar said all the workers at Haven’s Garden had medical exemptions to wearing masks. She said they are members of the same household and immune to COVID-19, and work away from customers.
“We’ve done reasonable accommodations and we also have exemptions, so there’s nothing we should be fined for,” McFarquhar said in the video.
A flier posted on McFarquhar’s Facebook page on Wednesday said an event featuring food, live music and guest speakers is planned on Jan. 29. The speakers include conservative radio host Sam Bushman and former Graham County, Ariz. sheriff Richard Mack.
Mack is the founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, and author of “The County Sheriff: America’s Last Hope.” Mack also successfully challenged provisions of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that using county sheriffs to perform firearm background checks as part of the federal “Brady Bill” was unconstitutional.