LAKE PARK, Minn. — Agreeing not to open for dine-in service Tuesday, Dec. 22, after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the Minnesota Department of Health on Dec. 17, Hooligans Lakeside owner Todd Jacobson said he doesn’t think Gov. Tim Walz understands the pain he is causing bars and restaurants across the state. It will be a different kind of Christmas this year, the beleaguered owner said.
"I've got kids at home, I can't even buy Christmas presents for," Jacobson said.
He stressed his small bar and grill in Lake Park, Minn., was not the same as the larger places in the Twin Cities that can accommodate up to 500 patrons at once.
"I'm about as close to bankruptcy as you can get without having filed yet," he said.
Jacobson said he doesn't see the justification for the state allowing larger retailers such as Walmart to be able to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic, but smaller bars and restaurants, like his, are shut down.
"You can't justify Walmart, and those other ones, to me, because people are touching stuff, putting things back," Jacobson said. "We're in closer quarters, yes, I get how the virus spreads, I get all that, it's happening everywhere, it's not just us, so why single us out?"
Ultimately, Jacobson said he plans to "make amends" with the health department and comply with their cease-and-desist letter.
"Whether we're going to be here next summer, or not, I don't know," he said.
The Minnesota Department of Health issued a cease-and-desist order to Hooligans after determining that it had violated executive orders designed to protect employees, customers and community from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release from the state.
On Dec. 17, the state Health Department inspected Hooligans Lakeside and found that it was open for on-premises consumption in violation of Executive Order 20-99, which was issued by Walz on Nov. 18.
In a Tuesday post on the restaurant's Facebook page, Jacobson said they "will be open for takeout and off-sale only."
He also said the bank has supported his business by furloughing his loan payments until March. But he also hopes the governor will begin reconsidering his executive orders targeting bars and restaurants.
"I'm praying to God that our idiot governor sees the errors of his way, and he won't," said Jacobson.
He also said he understands the strained position Walz's executive order has put on local law enforcement, deciding to enforce the statewide health mandates even after talking with bar owners who are trying to make a living. After talking with Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander, Jacobson said, he believes Glander "gets it."
"Come the first of the year," he said, "there may be a lot of us who aren't here."
Jacobson hasn't even owned the business for more than a year; he bought the bar in March.
When he bought the bar, he thought, "This can't lose, how can this lose?"
Hooligans Lakeside bar and grill is on County Highway 6, south of Lake Park, on the northern shore of Big Cormorant Lake and the southern edge of Leaf Lake, a location with high boat traffic.
"I've probably had the most loyal customers (at Hooligans), than in any business I have ever been in," he said. "This is amazing the support we've gotten on this, but take-out doesn't work, it just doesn't."
He said he doesn't believe he'll qualify for any future financial assistance programs at the state, or federal, level because the previous owners didn't have the same seasonal hours, or revenue levels, that he does, and, on paper, it shows the bar increased its sales in their year-to-date profit and loss statement; not the evidence a business owner wants to show when trying to prove a hardship, he said.
"I'm just sitting, robbing Peter to pay Paul to keep the lights on, to keep the gas on, it just doesn't work," he said. "And when you're fighting your own governor for the right to operate a business legally, and he singles us out, and makes us demonic in what we're doing. ... Why is he singling us out?"
Jacobson said he had more than 10 employees at one point, but now his staff is down to one person.
He also said the outpouring of support from the community on Facebook has been overwhelming and about "99% positive, and 1% of the 'trollers' that want to shame you."
When asked about Walz potentially lifting the dine-in service restrictions when the current executive order expires on Jan. 11, Jacobson said, "He's an idiot, and you can quote me on that. He is absolutely destroying lives for no reason."