FARGO — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum issued an executive order on Thursday, March 19, that closes bars and restaurants to onsite business effective noon Friday, but he encouraged establishments to continue selling food via takeout and delivery as part of ongoing efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The order lasts through Monday, April 6, at least. Violation of the order by a bar or restaurant could result in a fine of up to $1,000.

News of the order came as no surprise to Lance Thorson, developer of the JL Beers chain of bars and restaurants and son of Randy Thorson who along with business partner Warren Ackley operates several nightclubs and restaurants in Fargo, including: The Old Broadway, NoBull Smokehouse, Vinyl Taco, and the Old Broadway Sports Zone.

Lance Thorson said he and others connected to his family's businesses had been working to come up with a course of action in anticipation of Burgum's order.

"We're making plans as best we can and contingency plans for our employees, to make sure we can continue to take care of them as much as we can," Thorson said.

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"We want to keep people working that want to keep working and need to keep working," he said, adding that options were being considered that may involve moving some workers to other businesses operated by his family. "We've been through floods and other natural disasters, but nothing like this. It's definitely uncharted times."

Lance Thorson said that because bar restrictions were anticipated the nightclub side of businesses his family operates was closed down earlier this week.

Thursday afternoon was a gloomy one at Fargo Brewing Co., as the crew there contemplated the ramifications of the governor's order.

Aaron Hill, co-owner of Fargo Brewing Co., listens to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on Thursday, March 19, as he announces the statewide closure of bars and restaurants due to the coronavirus. David Samson / The Forum
Aaron Hill, co-owner of Fargo Brewing Co., listens to North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on Thursday, March 19, as he announces the statewide closure of bars and restaurants due to the coronavirus. David Samson / The Forum

Aaron Hill, a founder of the brewery, said the action will likely lead to the shutting down of the brewery's ale house at 4445 17th Ave. S. in Fargo, but he said the taproom at 610 N. University Drive will remain open for off-sale of canned beer.

"At least we can sell something, so that's nice," Hill said.

According to Hill, the biggest part of the brewery's operation is distribution as opposed to the taproom, but he said a big portion of their distribution are keg sales to bars and restaurants.

"So, if all the other bars and restaurants can't be open and sell pints of beer to people, that's going to ding us quite a bit," Hill said, adding that at this point they are not looking at letting any employees go.

"We'll do everything we can to make sure they are taken care of as best we can," Hill said.

Burgum's order Thursday closing bars and restaurants also extended to recreational businesses including movie theaters, health clubs and music venues.

Abby Jensen, assistant manager at NoBull in downtown Fargo, said Thursday afternoon that the business planned to continue offering customers food to go, and she expressed optimism things will return to normal sooner rather than later "and we'll go back to our normal routine."

Brent Tehven, co-owner of Herd and Horns, 1414 12th Ave. N., Fargo, said the governor's order was expected and in a way its arrival brought a small measure of relief.

"We know now, and we're not waiting day to day," Tehven said.

"It helps our staff," he added. "At least they know they're not coming to work tomorrow, which sucks, to be honest with you."

Tehven said he's hoping the virus outbreak is a short-term thing and that life can get back to normal for everyone soon.

"It's not just us here in Fargo, or West Fargo, or Moorhead, or California," he said. "We're all in the same boat."

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