LAKE SHORE — The Minnesota Department of Health revoked the license of a Lake Shore restaurant with a history of not complying with executive orders intended to curb the spread of COVID-19.

In a Friday, Dec. 11, news release, the health department outlined several steps it took attempting to gain compliance from The Iron Waffle Coffee Co. on Interlachen Road before ultimately suspending the business’ license and issuing a $9,500 penalty.

The Cass County establishment was this summer the subject of multiple complaints forwarded to the health department alleging violations of employee masking requirements, the release stated. Regulatory staff tried to work with the business to inform them of the requirements and bring them into compliance, but these efforts failed, the health department said, leading to an Aug. 6 cease and desist order. Iron Waffle closed briefly but reopened in defiance of the order.

The Iron Waffle Coffee Co., which sits off of Interlachen Road in Lake Shore, is closed Thursday, Aug. 13, for a staff appreciation day. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
The Iron Waffle Coffee Co., which sits off of Interlachen Road in Lake Shore, is closed Thursday, Aug. 13, for a staff appreciation day. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The health department reported it issued an administrative penalty order more than a month later, to which the business did not respond. Next came a $9,500 penalty and a warning the restaurant’s license would be revoked if it did not come into compliance. A Dec. 5 inspection found Iron Waffle was also violating Gov. Tim Walz’s more recent executive order, which ordered dining establishments to revert to takeout only for at least a four-week period.

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The state revoked Iron Waffle’s license Dec. 9 with the $9,500 penalty remaining due.

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“While the vast majority of Minnesota businesses have complied with the Governor’s executive orders, a small number have not done so,” the release stated. “ … Consistent enforcement is an important fairness issue for the vast majority of businesses that are following COVID-related protocols. It’s also important to minimize the spread of this virus, which has already sickened and killed far too many of our friends, neighbors and loved ones.”

On Facebook, Iron Waffle has registered its displeasure with Walz’s executive orders a number of times. The most recent post directly addressing the issue came Sept. 19, garnering nearly 500 comments and 80 shares.

A sign was posted on the door of the Iron Waffle Coffee Co., as seen here Thursday, Aug. 13, in Lake Shore. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
A sign was posted on the door of the Iron Waffle Coffee Co., as seen here Thursday, Aug. 13, in Lake Shore. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“Good morning! At the Iron Waffle we have chosen to not infringe on, what we believe, are our employees and customers rights to choose!” the post stated. “The state mask mandate policy is not a law! It involved one human being making a choice to bypass the proper steps to create a law..

“We have been requested by customers, or at least people claiming to be customers, to make people aware online, not only on the door ,of the Mask choice we have at our business.. Thank you! We truly appreciate our wonderful customers and the overwhelming support we have received from you all!”

Good morning! At the Iron Waffle we have chosen to not infringe on, what we believe, are our employees and customers...

Posted by The Iron Waffle Coffee Company on Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Lake Shore restaurant was one of three the state reported enforcement actions against. On Thursday, after determining the Boardwalk Bar and Grill of East Grand Forks was open and operating in violation of the dine-in restrictions, the health department served the restaurant with a cease and desist order, ordering it to close. Nevertheless, the restaurant publicly stated it planned to remain open to the public for on-premises dining.

Subsequently, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit and motion for a temporary restraining order to prohibit the restaurant from remaining open. The Polk County District Court granted the attorney general’s motion for a temporary restraining order Friday afternoon.

Also with the assistance of the Attorney General's Office, the health department filed a lawsuit against Havens Garden, a restaurant in the city of Lynd near Marshall in southwest Minnesota, which has stayed open for on-premises service. The state served Havens Garden with a cease and desist order on Wednesday morning. The court action filed Friday seeks a court-ordered injunction, the hearing for which is scheduled to take place Wednesday afternoon.