Across North Dakota, bar and restaurant owners have closed their dining areas after Gov. Doug Burgum’s executive order. But in a town of just over 160 people, one bar owner in Willow City has been defying the new rule — and doing everything he can to stay open.
“When things are good, people go to the bar. If things are bad, people go to the bar. Right now, people can’t go to the bar,” said Dave Corum, owner of Gunslinger Grill.
Corum continued to operate despite Gov. Burgum’s executive order.
On March 20, Corum posted a sign on the bar’s door saying people needed to be invited inside and to “enter at their own risk,” and ran it as donation only. But residents didn’t agree with his decision to stay open.
“Everybody’s so worried about a bar that had anywhere from three people at one time to maybe 20,” said Corum.
The Bottineau Sheriff’s Department responded to the calls and issued five citations to Corum in total.
“I think the concern is the Coronas, you don’t know who’s going to come in there,” said Steven Watson, Sheriff of Bottineau County.
Right now, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Bottineau County. Statewide, three people have died out of the 173 positive cases.
But in Corum’s opinion, that isn’t enough reason for him to close up shop.
“You’re going to let these numbers on the health website stop you? Multiply them by 100, so what? I mean, it’s tragic, people die, but people are born today too. It’s just such a no-brainer. I can’t do it alone,” said Corum.
“My question to him: do you want to become the fourth? Or the fifth? I would say not because we have families, we have relatives, we have fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. Do we want to give them any part of that? No,” Watson said.
After he received those five citations, Corum was court ordered by a judge on Monday to cease his operation. Corum says like many business owners, this is his only source of income.
“I had some good numbers and I had some slow numbers, but at least I was able to keep my head above water,” Corum said.
“I want to see the Americans that still live in North Dakota do something. Don’t do it for me. Do it for yourself.”