A Winnebago bar owner facing charges stemming from the COVID pandemic has won Round 1 in the courtroom.
A jury trial was scheduled to start July 1 for David Schuster, owner of Schooter’s Bar.
But according to court documents, a misdemeanor charge of disobeying an “executive order” was dismissed on June 29.
Another charge of violating a city ordinance regulating the hours and days an on-sale establishment may sell liquor is still pending.
“The new county attorney wanted both charges dropped, but Police Chief (Eric) Olson said ‘no’,” says Schuster. “Instead of a jury trial, Judge (Troy) Timmerman was going to hold a court trial and make a decision.”
Olson says he wasn’t totally against dropping the charges and met with the county attorney to discuss the options.
“A continuance for dismissal was offered to Schuster, which he turned down,” says Olson. “The county attorney then went forward with the ordinance violations after it was agreed upon and dismissed the executive order violation.”
Timmerman put the matter on hold during a hearing last Wednesday in Faribault County District Court.
Schuster says he told the judge his food license allows gatherings in his bar on Sundays as long as no alcohol is sold or displayed for sale.
“The judge says he wanted to do more research before issuing a decision,” he says. “If he rules against me, I’m going to appeal it.”
Under the hours and days of sale section dealing with liquor licenses, a bar may not sell liquor after 1 a.m. on Sundays on a licensed premise.
Also, only the licensee or any employee may remain on the premises more than 30 minutes after the time when a sale can legally occur.
Being convicted of violating the hours and days of sale is considered a petty misdemeanor and would result in a fine of $110.
In March 2020, Schuster was accused of having his bar open and serving customers on Sunday, March 22, after Gov. Tim Walz ordered bars to close due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Schuster denied any wrongdoing, saying he was not serving any drinks to three friends who were in the bar at the time. He says the doors to the bar were locked and it was not open for business to the general public.
County Attorney Kathryn Karjala was prosecuting the case, but submitted her resignation last April. Cameron Davis was hired to replace her and sworn into office on June 25.