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Owosso barber keeps cutting hair despite court order

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Owosso — Four days after a Michigan court ordered barber Karl Manke to cease operations and lock the doors of his shop, he was cutting hair Tuesday morning with music playing in the background.

Manke had about a dozen other people in his Owosso barbershop — many of whom were waiting for haircuts — as his defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's restrictions to combat the COVID-19 pandemic rolled on.

Owner Karl Manke, left, cuts the hair of Jaimie Storey, of Midland, Tuesday.

The only major development since his shop was told to close Friday was that employees of Attorney General Dana Nessel's office visited Monday to tell the 77-year-old barber he was violating the court's order, Manke said.

"Both you guys look like you need a haircut,” Manke said he told the individuals from the attorney general's office.

Owosso barber Karl Manke cuts Randy Hamilton's hair on Tuesday, June 2, four days after a court ordered him to cease all operations at his shop.

As Manke discussed the visit Tuesday, one of his customers chimed in that the barber should send Nessel, the state's top law enforcement officer, a letter offering to cut her hair.

Manke didn't seem to like the idea. But he added, "I don't know how many of my clients have loaded up hair and sent it to the governor."

The Karl Manke Barber Shop in Owosso.

Agents went to Manke's shop Monday to "observe if he was in violation of the court order," Courtney Covington, a spokeswoman for Nessel's office, said Tuesday.

On Friday afternoon, the Michigan Court of Appeals required a Shiawassee County judge to "immediately sign and enter a preliminary injunction order" to force Manke to close his barbershop in Owosso.

Shiawassee County Circuit Judge Matthew Stewart issued his preliminary injunction order on Friday, May 29, 2020.

Judge Matthew Stewart then issued an order, telling Manke his shop "shall be locked and closed." The shop was still open Tuesday. Covington said the attorney general's office had "no details" to share at the moment about the Manke situation Tuesday morning.

The barber and his attorney, David Kallman, have asked the Michigan Supreme Court to intervene.

Whitmer first ordered barbershops, hair salons and other similar businesses to close on March 21, 11 days after the state confirmed its first cases of the novel coronavirus. While the Democratic governor has begun lifting many restrictions aimed at combating the virus, the restriction on barbershops and hair salons continues.

Michigan is the only state in the country where salons remain fully closed, according to a Tuesday press release from the Safe Salons for Michigan coalition.

A sign in the window of Karl Manke's barber shop proclaiming all business is essential.

Randy Hamilton of Bancroft was getting his haircut Tuesday morning by Manke. Asked if he had any concerns about coming to the shop, Hamilton responded, "No. None at all."

Manke voiced concerns Friday about the impact the state's restrictions would have on alcoholism and suicides. He said multiple people recently have had emotional breakdowns in his barbershop. 

"It’s a bunch of crap. Really, it is," Manke said of the restrictions, which he labeled unconstitutional.

Owner Karl Manke, left, cuts the hair of Mike Calhoun, of Owosso, Tuesday afternoon, with books, written by the barber, on display on the wall.

"Like all governments, they’ll do something knowing that it’s probably illegal but if they tie it up in the court system, then they can drag it on and do what they want to do," he added.

As of Tuesday, Michigan had confirmed 57,731 cases of COVID-19, the eighth highest total nationally.

cmauger@detroitnews.com