State orders East Grand Forks diner to cease dine-in operations

The Minnesota Department of Health announced Tuesday, Dec. 29, that Joe's Diner in East Grand Forks had been issued a cease-and-desist order and a notice of license suspension for defying Executive Order 20-99.

Joe Bushaw, owner of Joe's Diner said he needs to reopen or he will "lose everything." Adam Kurtz / Grand Forks Herald

The Minnesota Department of Health announced Tuesday, Dec. 29, that it had issued cease-and-desist orders to three establishments found to be in noncompliance with the governor's shutdown order, including East Grand Forks restaurant Joe's Diner. Joe's Diner, along with King Sparrow in Milaca and Big Orv's in Adrian, also were served with license suspension notices this week.

According to the cease-and-desist order, Joe's Diner must halt dine-in services for 72 hours. In order to extend the order, the state must seek a court injunction, but, as of Wednesday, none had been filed. A Joe's Diner employee told the Herald on Tuesday that takeout-only service had been resumed.

The three restaurants are accused of violating Executive Order 20-99, which prohibits bars and restaurants from providing dine-in services in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus and prevent hospitals and health care systems from becoming overwhelmed. They are the latest restaurants to be sanctioned in a recent trend of Minnesota business owners flouting the order.

Joe's Diner owner Joe Bushaw disputes the claims made by the Department of Health that his restaurant was open for dine-in services and a waitress was not wearing a mask, which were used to justify the sanctions. Bushaw could not be reached for comment on Wednesday for this article, but, on a Tuesday evening post to the restaurant's Facebook page, he wrote that he ensures wait staff wear masks properly at all times.

Bushaw also claims he had closed voluntarily on the dates the Department of Health conducted inspections. He added that usually, inspectors announce themselves, and he was not aware of any recent Department of Health inspections, so any inspectors must have been paying customers.


But documents provided by the Department of Health indicate otherwise.

According to the Department of Health, Joe's Diner was inspected on Dec. 17. At that time, an inspector asked a waitress if the restaurant was open for dine-in. According to the cease-and-desist order, the waitress told the inspector that the restaurant was open for dine-in but was temporarily closed, though they may open again. The Department of Health also states that the waitress was not wearing a mask, and there were no signs reminding patrons to wear masks, a violation of a previous executive order mandating masks in public spaces.

In a follow-up inspection on Dec. 22, an inspector found that the parking lot at Joe's Diner had several cars in it and observed several patrons leaving without takeout. The inspector found sufficient evidence that the restaurant was open for dine-in services, corroborating social media posts and news footage showing the restaurant was violating the order.

Documents show that Joe's Diner was served with a cease-and-desist order and a notice of licenses suspension on Dec. 26.

"It is absolutely unbelievable that myself and other small businesses are literally under attack by our own government," Bushaw wrote in the Facebook post, which, as of Wednesday afternoon, had been shared more than 450 times. "For the first time ever, I’m embarrassed to be a Minnesota resident."

To address the reports going around, I wanted to put out a statement myself. After talks with the Attorney General's...

Posted by Joe’s Diner - East Grand Forks, MN on Tuesday, December 29, 2020

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