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MDH seeks to increase penalties against Haven’s Garden

Lynd restaurant owner raises $40,000 off fundraising website

MARSHALL — A Lynd restaurant owner defying Gov. Tim Walz’s shutdown order has raised more than $40,000 for her defense, according to a fundraising website.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the Minnesota Department of Health are trying to have penalties increased against Larvita McFarquhar, who opened her Lynd restaurant for indoor dining in violation of COVID-19 restrictions.

Court records said a motion for further sanctions against McFarquhar was filed in Ramsey County District Court on Dec. 29. McFarquhar has continued to open her restaurant, Haven’s Garden, for indoor dining even after being found in constructive civil contempt of court.

Attorneys for the MDH asked that a new hearing be scheduled to consider raising the civil contempt penalties, which were originally a fine of $250 a day, court documents said. If the restaurant continues to offer indoor dining, it would result in “irreparable harm,” attorneys for the MDH said.

On Monday, McFarquhar said Haven’s Garden has stayed open for indoor dining. However, she said she had not yet received or been notified of any fines.

At a Dec. 18 hearing, McFarquhar said she would not follow a temporary restraining order against indoor dining. A Ramsey County judge found McFarquhar in civil contempt, and ruled that McFarquhar should be fined $250 for each day she was in violation of the restraining order.

The motion filed Dec. 29 asked the court to consider further penalties against McFarquhar. Minnesota law allows for a penalty of up to six months of jail time for constructive civil contempt, the motion said.

Representatives of Southwest Health and Human Services observed that Haven’s Garden was open for indoor dining on three different dates since Dec. 18, and McFarquhar had posted on social media that the restaurant would be open, court documents said.

Court documents also noted that a fundraising campaign for McFarquhar had raised more than $39,000.

As of Monday, the “Daughters of Larvita Defense Fund” on Christian fundraising website GiveSendGo said a total of 643 people had raised $41,371 out of a $100,000 goal.

So far, no new hearings have been scheduled in McFarquhar’s case, and no new court documents had been filed since Dec. 29.

There has also been no new action on an appeal of the temporary restraining order against indoor dining at Haven’s Garden. The appeal was filed with the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Dec. 22.

McFarquhar has operated a dance studio, Southwest School of Dance, in a former ballroom in Lynd since 2016. In 2017, she opened a restaurant called Trev’s Kitchen on the property as well. McFarquhar said she had planned to re-brand the restaurant early in 2020. COVID-related shutdowns have affected both the restaurant and Southwest School of Dance.

In April, McFarquhar was part of a group of Minnesota small business owners who challenged Walz’s executive orders in the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The appeals court dismissed the case in May, saying it didn’t have the jurisdiction to rule on it. While Minnesota statutes say state rules can be appealed if they interfere with legal rights, that doesn’t include emergency executive orders.

Haven’s Garden was not the only area restaurant that reopened this winter in spite of executive orders against indoor dining. Both Elsie’s Cafe in Clarkfield and Freddy’s Bar in Lake Benton joined a group of around 150 restaurants and bars statewide that planned to reopen on Dec. 18 for indoor dining. Freddy’s was only open for indoor service one night, and the owner closed the business for good on Dec. 31. On Dec. 23, Elsie’s owner Natasha Lynne posted on the cafe’s Facebook page that she would only be offering takeout until Jan. 11.

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