The latest COVID-19 Executive Order 20-81 to come down from Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s office has made it difficult for four Fillmore County businesses to continue business as usual.
With only three days to prepare, the Harmony Gardens and Floral indoor gift shop, Home Sweet Home Café and Cakery, Burdey’s Café, and The Sweet Shop and Sandwich Shoppe made the emotionally and financially difficult decision to close temporarily.
The four businesses are evaluating business operations and updating COVID-19 preparedness plans to ensure that their families, staff, and customers are safe when they reopen. The safety of their stakeholders is the deciding factor for every business owner.
This decision did not come lightly. As Michael Eickhoff, The Sweet Shop and Sandwich Shoppe, shared, “I hate to do this to our patrons.”
Hospitality Minnesota, the State’s advocacy for the hospitality industry, posted the following highlights from the 16 pages Executive Order 20-81 that went in to effect Saturday, July 25.
• The public must now wear masks indoors, and outdoors when waiting in lines for service when social distancing is not possible.
• Children under five and individuals with health conditions that make wearing a mask difficult are exempt.
• Masks are required for workers indoors, and outdoors when they cannot maintain appropriate social distance. They are not required when individuals are working alone.
• In restaurants, masks must be worn by all occupants when entering, moving about, and leaving an establishment. They are not required while eating or drinking.
• Businesses are encouraged to post clear signage to guests about the mandate. Businesses are not required, though may elect, to refuse service to a patron not wearing a mask.
“While Minnesota expects that businesses and individuals will voluntarily comply with the requirements of this guidance and Executive Order 20-81 to keep their fellow Minnesotans safe, there are consequences for violation of these requirements. These consequences can include petty misdemeanor citations and fines for people, and criminal, civil, and regulatory sanctions for businesses (and their owners and managers). Fines for businesses range from $1000 to $25,000.” According to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Harmony Gardens and Floral
Owners and more importantly, mom and dad, Andrew and Lisa Kingsley, made the difficult decision to close their indoor gift shop while reminding customers that outdoor shopping areas such as the daylily gardens, produce wagon, and yard art are all open.
The family is working to bring the indoors out as much as they can. For example, the handmade soy candles by Rustic Re-Creations have been moved outside.
Andrew Kingsley shared the following statement regarding the mask mandate. “We will continue to serve customers as best as we can, innovating as necessary to succeed. We are hoping that a pathway permitting some level of personal freedom will become available, but we are also not naive. But make no mistake, we will never quit. It’s more than just taking a right to choose whether or not to wear a mask away from our children and us; all day, six days a week. Worse is that all businesses are liable for their customer’s choices and forced to impose Governor’s dictates on customers and employees. As we explained in our Facebook post, we never signed up to be agents of law enforcement or to tell other people what they have to do. As a customer in a business, you could receive up to a $100 fine for not wearing a mask. As a business owner not wearing a mask, or your child not wearing a mask in your business, or permitting a customer not wearing a mask in your business, the business owners can receive up to $25,000 in fines and up to 90 days in jail, per incident with the government. How is any of this just? We are a family running a business together, and unless we force one man’s dictates on our children and customers at all times, we can be made criminals for that. That is criminal.”
Home Sweet Home Cafe and Cakery
Alan and Elizabeth (Liz) Mason and their two children, Gregory (23) and Emily (15), operate Home Sweet Home Cafe and Cakery in beautiful downtown Lanesboro.
Both Gregory and Emily Mason have medical conditions that prevent them from safely wearing masks while working in the family’s three-year-old bakery.
As the business owners have all done, the Masons posted a sign on the bakery’s front door letting their customers know they need to wear a mask, allowing them to decide whether to come in or not. Customers also have the option of ordering takeout. Customers can even enjoy a meal on the restaurant’s beautiful decorated outdoor patio. Customers also have the option of going to another restaurant in Lanesboro.
The owner, Liz Mason, explained how it hurt to have a customer file a disgruntled customer file a complaint against their business. It was clear in her voice that she was hurting. They did not want to close their business no matter how temporary. She went on to explain why she felt betrayed because the family strives to be active members and supportive of the community they work in. This particular individual decided to ignore the information posted on the door and came in. The customer did not even take the time to share their feelings with the Masons.
The Masons provide a community meal each month. Families pay $20, and attendees leave with enough leftovers to last them for a few days. Liz emphasized that “The point is not to make money, it is to support the community.”
From the start of the pandemic, the family has been very conscientious about following the safety guidelines. For example, they shut down their dine-in business and offered carryout.
What is very frustrating is that the mandate does not make the customer responsible for their decisions. Instead, the business owners are responsible and can be accessed a penalty of $1,000 to $25,000 and jeopardize their right to own a business. It can also affect their ability to purchase insurance for their business.
The Sweet Shop and Sandwich Shoppe
Owners Michael and Brenda Eickhoff explained that they have not had any complaints and made the decision to close. The couple now focuses on developing a plan to reopen safely. At this time, they do not know what changes will be made.
Michael Eickhoff shared that the pandemic has been mentally stressful, and they needed a break. They are taking advantage of this time to make the dust fly in their shop. Eickhoff went on to explain that it is very difficult to remodel when the shop is open, so they are going to make the best use of this time and make changes that they have wanted to do for some time.
The mandate requires business owners to notify customers by posting the mask requirement. The Eickhoffs have posted the entire 16-page Executive Order on the front door, thus ensuring that all their customers have access to it and can have an understanding of the requirements that are required to remain open.
Michael Eickhoff is concerned that the legislature and judicial branch do not have to adhere to the same requirements as Minnesota residents, visitors, and businesses.
Both Eickhoffs stated that they do not have a problem wearing masks. They have a problem being required to enforce the mandate that their customers wear masks or face the risk of civil penalties ranging from $1,000 to $25,000.
They can financially afford to close the restaurant but are not financially able to pay a $25,000 penalty for someone else’s decision.
With the supply chain in disarray and supplies delivered once a week, business owners couldn’t get the supplies needed with only three days notice. For example, Sysco, National Restaurant Distributor, is not able to get gloves that are required.
Facebook shows that 99.5% of The Sweet Shop and Sandwich Shoppe comments are positive, and Facebook fans have increased three-fold. The Eickhoffs explained that they are “doing the same things that we have always done.”
Steven and Kristin Burdey have temporary closed their indoor dining area and have gone back to only offering carryout.
The sign on the front door of the Burdey’s Café in Peterson explain why the Burdey’s made the decision to close indoor dining.
“Masks are still required to enter this or any other public building in the state. If you are not eating or drinking, you must have a mask, as per Governor’s orders. Because of the difficulty of enforcing this, and the potential for fines up to $25,000, if guests are non-compliant, we have decided it is not worth the risk at this point in time.”
The Burdey’s offer their “apologies for any inconvenience, but we have to make smart choices now to get the doors back open later.”
All four business will be back open.
This Facebook comment could be found on any of the four businesses. “You are an asset to Lanesboro/Harmony/Peterson/Preston. We miss Harmony Gardens & Floral/Home Sweet Home Café and Cakery/Burdey’s Café/The Sweet Shop and Sandwich Shoppe. We miss your family too.”