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Video: Northern Minnesota restaurant with mask optional stance faces potential legal action

Aug 15, 2020 06:35AM ● By Editor

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Photo: Fox 9

By Paul Blume of Fox 9 KMSP-TV News - August 14, 2020

Tucked in the heart of Minnesota’s cabin country is The Iron Waffle, a tiny, lodge-style business open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon treats seven days a week over the summer.

If you visit, the sign on their front door says wearing a face mask is optional, despite the governor's statewide indoor mask mandate.

“You don’t have to come in,” said Jeremiah Duvall, co-owner of The Iron Waffle.

Duvall and Stacy Stranne have owned the shop for the last five years. Their position is waffles and coffee just aren’t essential needs, so their business shouldn’t be required to mandate masks for those who step inside.

“We think people should have the freedom of choice to choose, you know, what they want to do one way or another when it comes to their health,” said Duvall.

The lack of masks on their Friday afternoon coffee stop, grabbed the attention of two friends visiting from Minneapolis. 

“I understand the position, but I also think in times like this, it’s not about that,” said one restaurant visitor. “It’s more about the health of others. It’s caring about what’s happening with other people and not just yourself.”

The Minnesota Department of Health also is taking note, slapping The Iron Waffle with a cease-and-desist letter. Officials shut down the eatery for three days in hopes of getting them to comply with the governor’s emergency pandemic mask order.

It’s one of only three businesses to receive the cease and desist order. The other two are now in compliance, but The Iron Waffle still faces possible legal action. It’s still not enough though, to get the business to change its stance.

“Just like food safety requirements aren’t optional, these COVID safety requirements aren’t optional,” said Kris Ehresmann, the infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health.

“I don’t want to get thrown into jail, but I don’t want to back down,” said Stacy Stranne, a co-owner of The Iron Waffle.

Duvall points out their part-time staff of seven is completely on board, they’ve shut down indoor dining for spacing requirements and instead are asking customers to take their food and drink to the patio after ordering at the counter.

They’ve been told their case is now in the hands of the Attorney General’s Office for potential legal action.

Regardless of what may happen next, the owners insist they will not back down, they will not fold. To them, this will always be an issue of personal choice.

“I think we’d probably close for the season and wait for them to stop overstepping what we feel their powers are and not be open,” said Duvall.

The Attorney General’s Office would work to get compliance before going to court. The Iron Waffle owners say they haven’t heard from Keith Ellison’s office, yet.

To see the original story and read related articles, follow this link to the Fox 9 News website.