Alibi - Virus Outbreak Minnesota

Dean Wedul, of Lakeville, right of center, lifts his drink with friends at the bar at Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Owner Lisa Monet Zarza reopened in defiance of Gov. Walz’s order that closed for indoor service for bars and restaurants. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

The former owners of Alibi Drinkery in Lakeville are facing new allegations in Dakota County civil court that they used the Limited Liability Company’s bank account for personal expenses, driving the account balance to zero in less than four months.

A lawsuit was filed against Alibi on Dec. 17 for violating Executive Order 20-99, which prohibited indoor food and beverage service, as the Lakeville bar and restaurant openly defied the Nov. 18, 2020, to Jan. 10, 2021, order by opening for indoor service for 14 days between Dec. 16, 2020, and Jan. 10, 2021.

During the course of the court’s discovery, the state in July obtained financial records for Lionheart LLC, which Lisa Zarza and Ricardo Baldazo initially attempted to conceal by providing “heavily redacted” bank statements. Zarza is also a former owner of Alibi at Froggy Bottoms in Northfield. That eatery closed shortly after the Northfield City Council denied Zarza a liquor license in April.

The council agreed with Police Chief Mark Elliott who recommended not renewing the license based on Zarza’s noncompliance with the governor’s order and because of the then-preliminary suspension of her Lakeville liquor license.

With the help of third parties, the state found that the Lionheart’s bank account was overdrawn as owners Zarza and Baldazo allegedly dispersed $177,944 from mid-December 2020 to March 2021 for personal expenses, such as for jewelry, cosmetic surgery, airline tickets and motorcycle rental, along with making cash payments to themselves.

The state says the alleged activity, which occurred as their case was being litigated, violates the Uniform Voidable Transfers Act.

The state alleges that Zarza and Baldazo knew depleting the account would “adversely impact the state’s ability to both secure and collect assets necessary to collect on any potential judgment obtained in the litigation.”

For the insolvency of the company, the state said Zarza and Baldazo breached their fiduciary duty and had an obligation to preserve assets for any creditor, which included the state of Minnesota.

The state claims that Zarza and Baldazo were aware that they had to maintain funds equal to the value of their legal liabilities.

The state has collected $672 from Lionheart in the active case and said it could impose a fine up to $25,000, but whether or not it would or the amount had not been determined since there was no judgment yet in the case.

The state said the court should require Zarza and Baldazo to return all unlawfully dissipated assets in an account controlled by the court.

After the account was depleted, Zarza said in May that she would be selling Lionheart’s largest assets — the Alibi Drinkery and Froggy Bottoms at Alibi in Northfield, the restaurants and their equipment and furnishings.

By the end of May, Alibi in Lakeville was closed and the state said Zarza and Baldazo attempted to enter into a sham sale of the Alibi Drinkery to Jose Colon III, the second cousin of Baldazo.

The sale was abandoned, the state said, after Colon rescinded his liquor license application during the July 6 Lakeville City Council meeting when it was apparent that the council would deny the license.

Lakeville city staff recommended denial due to what its report said that some of Colon’s statements and application information were false, inconsistent or misleading based on the provisions of the lease that required Zarza and Baldazo to “operate” the business and contemplated the future ability of Zarza to become a 50%-plus owner without landlord consent.

It said his deceptive explanation of the roles of himself, Zarza and Baldazo suggested Colon is not the real person in interest for purposes of operating Alibi, but it merely a means to obtain a liquor license for Zarza and Baldazo, who are not eligible for the license.

In voting for the denial, council members also factored in the felony charges filed against Baldazo in September 2020 with two counts of first-degree attempted murder and two counts of first-degree assault after shooting several gun shots at Burnsville police officers in a Sept. 2 incident.

Froggy Bottoms has since reopened under new management.

Tad Johnson can be reached at tad.johnson@apgecm.com.

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