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Willow City bar owner cited -- 5 times -- for defying governor's order

From the North Dakota coronavirus news roundup of the week: March 29-April 4 series
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This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health earlier this month shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. 

A Willow City bar owner who has been cited five times since March 25 for violating Gov. Doug Burgum’s order closing bars and restaurants to on-site service to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus says he "prefers a dangerous freedom to a peaceful slavery." 

David Corum, owner of Gunslinger’s, was issued citations on March 25 and 26, two on March 27 and another on March 28, court documents show. The charges against him are infractions, an offense that does not rise to the level of a misdemeanor.

Corum said he understands that behind every statistic detailing coronavirus infections and deaths there is "a face, there's stories, there's loved ones," but he added "you also have to be realistic and pragmatic."

"Three dead out of 760,000 people? 5,000 dead out of 330 million people?" Corum said. "You're just not going to convince me this pandemic is the threat they claim it is."

Corum said he and certain county officials "go way back" and he believes some of the motivation behind the citations is political.

Corum feels President Donald Trump and Burgum can be seen standing closer than 6 feet to others in the rooms at recent meetings.

"The hypocrisy is outrageous," he said.

He's not "flipping the governor off," he said, but "he's not my daddy, he's not gonna send me to my room, I'm not skipping supper." 

Bottineau County Sheriff Steve Watson received a number of texts and calls from county residents who complained about the bar being open. He gave Corum information about the governor's order but the bar owner continued to stay open.

“People were congregating," Watson said. "He wasn’t following the rules of the governor.”

A recording on the bar telephone informs callers that the business closed as of March 20, no longer serves the public, has nothing to sell and that the phone will not be answered. Corum posted a sign on the door informing the public that the club was private, his licenses had been surrendered, and anyone entering did so at their own risk.

Corum can’t have more than three people in the bar -- besides himself and one employee -- under the terms of a pretrial agreement and order signed by Northeast District Judge Anthony Benson. Corum "may not provide, dispense, sell or otherwise give anyone alcohol at the location formerly known as Gunslinger’s,” the order states. Corum was not arrested and is free on a $3,000 personal recognizance bond, the document shows.

Watson and his deputies have made “a daily ritual” of the 18-mile trip to Willow City to check on Corum, patrolling highways as they travel, the sheriff said.

“We won’t go in there again unless we see a group larger than three,” he said.

Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or


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