Police to report Fargo bar to liquor control board for violating pandemic rules

Chief says one bar has had continuous violations

new executive order
Fargo Police Chief David Zibolski talks on Friday, Nov. 13, about a new executive order in Fargo addressing occupancy limits for businesses. Dave Olson/The Forum.

FARGO — One Fargo bar could face a warning, fine or temporary liquor license revocation for continuing to violate occupancy and mask mandate rules put in place to try to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fargo Police Chief Dave Zibolski wouldn't name the bar, but he told the Fargo City Commission on Monday night, Dec. 28, that three violation reports on the establishment would be turned over to the city's liquor control board for action.

Mayor Tim Mahoney and Commissioner Tony Gehrig, who serves on the liquor control board, said after the meeting they didn't know or want to name the bar, either.

The liquor control board will meet at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 20, at which time the name will become public if it is not released sooner.

Because this was "new territory," Gehrig said, it should probably only be a warning. He added some other commissioners thought the recently passed relief package of liquor license renewal and utility charge waivers for the city's 440 bars and restaurants should be taken away from the violator.


Zibolski said a report on one other bar will be turned over, too, but after discussions with the operators they have done a "180-degree turnaround" and followed the occupancy, social distancing and mask rules.

Gov. Doug Burgum extended the closing time for bars and restaurants from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. last week, but the eateries still have a 50% occupancy rule, social distancing required between tables and an order for customers to wear a mask when they aren't seated at a table.

Since Nov. 16, Zibolski said, when the mask mandate and early closing times were put in place in North Dakota, police have checked on 209 establishments with 90% of them found to be following guidelines. In the past two weeks, they have done 40 compliance checks.

He said only 17 were driven by complaints from customers, and most of those were solved with educational guidance.

Fargo Cass Public Health Director Desi Fleming said COVID-19 numbers in Cass County continue to decrease, with 377 active cases on Monday. She credited the mask mandate with playing a "strong role" in the falling caseload as she showed a graphic with a dramatic downturn in the past few weeks.

Another good sign this week, she said, was that coronavirus-related discharges from the hospital were higher than admissions.

She said 164 people have died with COVID-19 so far in the county, while the state total is 1,270.

Fleming urged people to get vaccinated as doses become available, and Mahoney said they were going to try to get vaccines out as soon as possible. He urged individuals to not call public health at this time until all health care front-line workers are vaccinated.


Assistant City Administrator Mike Redlinger also gave a report on business relief programs and said businesses were encouraged to apply for the city's program.

He also said the new federal program, signed Sunday night by President Donald Trump, will provide more Payroll Protection Program loans to small businesses, including sole proprietors. He expects applications to be rolled out in the coming weeks but said nothing was available immediately.

He said there is $20 billion in economic injury emergency funding that could help small businesses with working and operating capital.

Also in the bill, he said, is $15 billion to help theaters and others in the entertainment businesses . He said they want to look at that portion more carefully to see if local establishments could benefit.

Commissioner Arlette Preston wondered if the application process for PPP loans was made easier this time, as businesses run by New Americans who sometimes don't have the help of a lawyer or certified accountant have a hard time navigating any help. Redlinger said he hasn't seen the guidelines yet.

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