The Minnesota Department of Health attempts to extort signatures, employing protection racket tactics, while practicing omerta on the subject of its legal grounding.
For history on this click here.
Reports are that a few skittish bar owners may have capitulated or even signed the "pledge of allegiance" to the Minnesota Department of Health but the nearly universal reaction has been disgust and ridicule of Healthist goon tactics.
The Health Department has no legal grounding for enforcement. That’s why the "pledge of allegiance," a contract, which Anti believes could potentially be enforced once signed. That’s why the Department says it can cite but does not cite. That’s why it says it has administrative authority but refuses to produce or describe the "legal advice" on which it bases its claims and threats. Growing popular indignation at the smoker pogrom restrains the Healthists from the simple solution of re-opening the matter with the Legislature so as to rewrite the theatrical production exemption or else remove it from the law. Instead, if debate began anew in light of recent publicity, the Legislature might well be inclined to add more exemptions, or repeal the ban altogether. Antitobacco is in a panic. The mouths are frothing and the fangs are protruding. There’s a long dirty fight ahead in Minnesota as everywhere.
To view the "pledge of allegiance" click here.
A bar owner, who prefers to remain anonymous, wrote this in response to the Health Department:
31 March 2008
In reference to the letter regarding Theatre Nights. It states in the beginning that there was "legal advice." I would like to know what the legal advice was and where it came from. I have not heard anything from the attorney general on this matter so I am confused. Was the advice to have every bar owner sign a statement that they will not allow smoking so there will be basis for fines? I am guessing right now because info has not been released. This tactic seems very inefficient to me. Why not take care of the whole situation at once and change the law? MN DOH must have better things to do than chase around bar owners with a letter that says, sign this so I can fine you or put you out of business.
[Signed: Bar Owner]
Here is the response to the letter above from the Health Department:
2 April 2008
I apologize for the delayed response to your email.
I assure you that the Department has received legal advice in this matter — including advice from the Attorney General’s office. That advice would indicate that the existing statutory language is sufficiently enforceable. As such, the Department has been informed that there will be no movement to open the statute to modification.
MDH is going out of its way to allow establishments to get out of this situation without severe penalties. That is the sole purpose of the letters.
Feel free to call me directly for further discussion.
John D. Olson
Indoor Air Unit
Minnesota Department of Health
Robert Ripley of the Bullseye Saloon tells us an MDH goon named Dale visited his bar on 27 March while Robert was out. The bartender on duty called Robert and put him on the phone with Dale. Dale said: "The MDH is of the legal opinion that these Theatre Nights violate the MCIAA." Robert replied: "I am of the legal opinion that we are not breaking any laws whatsoever." Robert asked Dale if he had the power to ticket anyone and Dale said no. Robert asked Dale if he was going to take away his liquor license and Dale said Theatre Night was "jeopardizing" the liquor license. Robert refused to give a requested "verbal agreement." The phone call ended. Dale began taking random photographs in the bar until the bartender told him to stop taking pictures of her. He stalked out, leaving behind the pledge letter, which of course was ignored. More on Robert Ripley and the Bullseye at links below:
(Article) (stored version) (Video)
It was Anti’s hope that gaining extra-legal compliance with smoker pogrom policy by way of threatening business owners could have led to the pending cases being dismissed, such that the Health Department could continue to control, in a manner essentially outside and above the law. The jackboot seems to have failed this time. So as to expedite setting of a trial date in the case of the first bar owner ticketed, Attorney Mark Benjamin has waived arraignment, originally scheduled for this week. We should learn of the trial date within days. In a fair courtroom the bar owner should prevail. We shall see.
More related links:
The American Lung Association is a particularly zealous organization. Its Minnesota branch is sending out flyers which include the panicked message: "As you know the Freedom to Breathe Act has come under attack recently … We need to keep this issue alive as not to go backwards." The flyer also recruits finks to report bars who run Theatre Nights. The suggestion is to report the bars to the trembling black hand of the Health Department.
If you haven’t already, and even if you have, and no matter where you live, keep letting Minnesota legislators know that the stinking Freedom to Breathe Act is under attack by you, and by advocates of free choice and rational policy all over the world. (Link)
An article from the New York Times reports generally on ban vagaries and on Minnesota in particular: (Article) (stored version)
Continuing Minnesota updates and related points of interest are published at: www.freedomtoact.com
For more information on the Minnesota movement: click here