Michigan restaurant owner in jail for defying virus orders

Western Michigan restaurant owner sentenced to prison until she pays $ 7,500 and closes her business

DETROIT – A western Michigan restaurant owner was arrested before dawn Friday and taken to jail, a dramatic turn in a month-long dispute over her persistent refusal to comply with orders and restrictions linked to the coronavirus.

Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, 55, will remain in jail until she pays $ 7,500 and authorities confirm that Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland, Michigan, is closed, a judge said.

“She has put the community at risk. We are in the middle of a pandemic, ”said Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.

State investigators said Pavlos-Hackney had allowed indoor dining when prohibited, was not enforcing mask rules and was ignoring capacity limits. His food license was suspended on January 20, but the business remained open.

A different judge on March 4 held Pavlos-Hackney in contempt of court and ordered an arrest unless the restaurant was closed.

“You have not selfishly followed orders. … This is the wrong way to get publicity, “Aquilina said.” It is the wrong way to be a good citizen. “

Pavlos-Hackney’s attorney, Robert Baker, said she would immediately pay $ 7,500 and close the restaurant.

State police arrested her in Park Township, near Holland, and drove 90 miles (145 kilometers) to the Ingham County Jail. Pavlos-Hackney appeared to ignore the possibility of an arrest while serving coffee for customers Thursday.

“We don’t want this country to be a communist regime that is going to dictate what we can do and what we cannot do,” the Polish native told WOOD-TV on Thursday.

Restaurant staff were still serving breakfast Friday when news of the arrest spread.

“I’m very proud of her for what she’s doing and I support her 100,000%,” customer Ed Krasinski told MLive.com.

To reduce the spread of the coronavirus, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has at times put strict limits on restaurants and bars. In-person dining service, with limited capacity, was restored on February 1 after a 10-week hiatus. There were other restrictions early in the pandemic.

State regulators have suspended the licenses of companies that violate the rules.

Attorney General Dana Nessel defended the arrest on Twitter, saying that Pavlos-Hackney was putting the public at risk.

“I can’t understand how or why this is controversial,” said Nessel, a Democrat.

The court hearing got off to a rocky start: A man who acknowledged he was not a licensed attorney was arrested for contempt after Aquilina said it was inappropriate for him to produce a document on Pavlos-Hackney’s behalf.

The judge then asked him if he promised to tell the truth. Pavlos-Hackney did not reply.

“I know you want to control this room, but this is not Burger King,” Aquilina said. “When the sign changes to Burger King, you can do it your way. Right now, this is my courtroom and you will answer my questions. “


Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwritez


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