Holland restaurant owner still in jail; state updates court on restaurant status
A Holland restaurant owner arrested last week for failing to comply with state public health guidelines for more than four months remained in jail over the weekend.
Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, owner of Marlena's Bistro and Pizzeria, remained in jail as of Monday evening even after her court docket was updated to indicate she had paid the fine and a "notice of satisfaction of judgment of contempt" had been filed.
Earlier Monday, Pavlos-Hackney's lawyer Robert Baker said he was trying to determine what the Ingham County court needs to see to be convinced that the restaurant will remain closed.
Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said Friday that Pavlos-Hackney would remain in jail until Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office was convinced the restaurant was closed for good. The state said it planned to update the court on the restaurant's status.
Baker on Friday directed the restaurant be boarded up to ensure the facility would remain closed.
"She’s supposed to be set free," the lawyer said about Pavlos-Hackney. "We’re going to fight this the proper way, which is through the legal system.”
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development needed time after Aquilina's order to verify the restaurant was closed, Nessel spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said.
When Aquilina issued her order Friday, the restaurant had already closed under normal business hours so there was "no way to verify that she is not and would not operate in violation of the Ingham County Circuit Court’s orders," Rossman-McKinney said Friday.
Protesters gathered at the restaurant over the weekend and, on Monday, the Michigan Republican Party and four GOP lawmakers held a press conference outside the bistro.
Legislators criticized Nessel for pursuing action against Pavlos-Hackney while declining to investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's nursing home policy — which critics have blamed for fueling the long-term care facilities' accounting for 35% of Michigan's COVID-19 deaths. They also protested how long Pavlos-Hackney has been held in jail.
"Marlena did not violate a law that the Legislature passed," said state Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Wayland. "Marlena violated an order issued by an unelected bureaucrat. No one should be able to go to jail because one unelected bureaucrat makes an order."
Many of the orders Pavlos-Hackney flouted — including mask mandates, capacity restrictions and social distancing rules — were issued in the form of epidemic orders by the state Department of Health and Human Services under the public health code.
The Legislature granted the department those powers decades ago.
Nessel responded Sunday to critics of the restaurant owner's arrest with a timeline dating back to November of warnings, notices and hearings Pavlos-Hackney had received regarding the restaurant, noting she had "countless opportunities to comply."
Instead, Pavlos-Hackney went on Fox News' "Tucker Carlson Tonight" and set up a GoFundMe that has raised nearly $240,000 for legal expenses, Nessel said.
"She is no martyr and no hero," Nessel wrote. "One cannot repeat the mantra of 'Law & Order' and support the activities of Ms. Pavlos-Hackney. But if you cheered Donald Trump when he bragged about the many ways he avoided military services while others complied with their legal obligations, it's no wonder you revere this woman. Making personal sacrifice for the greater good of our state and nation was once considered admirable. Not anymore."
Pavlos-Hackney, a native of Poland, told WOOD-TV Thursday she had a constitutional right to remain open.
"We don't want in this country (a) communist regime who's going to dictate what we can do and what we can't do," Pavlos-Hackney said. "If I have to go to prison or jail, I'm willing to take the fight."