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DEFYING GOVERNOR’S ORDERS: Minnesota small business owner promotes safe reopening despite restrictions

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Employee at The Interchange in Albert Lea

ALBERT LEA, Minn. (KTTC) -- The hospitality industry was not one of those getting much of a break in the updated COVID-19 mitigation guidance issued by Gov. Tim Walz Wednesday.

The Interchange, a downtown Albert Lea coffee shop that also serves food and drinks, decided to go against the governor's orders and open anyway. While sustained by carryout and delivery orders during the shut down, the owner says businesses in Albert Lea are running out of money and need to open up their doors.

"I believe that a lot of our business will survive somehow, very smart people. Will we all survive? Probably not," said The Interchange's owner Lisa Hanson.

After losing money day after day, she had to make a hard decision.

"We either had to open or close our doors permanently," Hanson said.

Minnesota's governor has allowed gyms to open back up, but with restrictions to make sure they do so safely. The Interchange says bars and restaurants can do the same and state funding is not enough help until they can fully open.

"These are crumbs. We cannot survive on crumbs. We are way beyond that," Hanson said. "This thing started out as two weeks and now we're almost in 9 months."

They have reopened, but with precautions.

"I believe this is a safe place for people to come into," Hanson insists.

Even so, there is a worry for possible consequences from the state.

"This is very scary. This is not an easy thing to do," Hanson said. "We're hard working Americans. We follow the laws. We don't want to buck the system. We don't want to cause trouble. We don't want to offend anybody. But I'll tell you what, we're willing to take the risk.

She hopes it can be an example to other businesses that are still closed.

"Listen, if we all join together, maybe we can beat this thing," said The Interchange's owner.

Hanson tells us there was a line of customers out the door all morning. The shop was so busy she even had to call in extra employees.

She defends her decision to reopen with the 14th amendment, and says the governor's closing of businesses treads upon owner's "pursuit of happiness."

Alex Tejada

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