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Metro Detroit car wash chain cited for defying state order

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy sent a cease-and-desist letter Tuesday to a Metro Detroit car wash chain they said has kept some locations open during the coronavirus pandemic despite a mandate closing businesses considered nonessential to state infrastructure.

Police have issued four tickets to three Fast Splash Car Wash sites in Wayne County for violating Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order, but the business has continued to operate, state officials said in a statement.

"When contacted by officers conducting enforcement, employees at multiple car wash locations attempted to mislead authorities by using another police officer’s name and insisting that he said the business could stay open," the release read. "That was not the case. In fact, the police officer spoke with Fast Splash Car Wash owner Ali Sobh and told him the business must temporarily suspend operations due to its status as a nonessential service."

Fast Splash officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The day after Whitmer's order went into effect last month, Fast Splash announced on its Facebook page that the company was "taking responsible actions to prevent the spread of the virus, for that reason we will be temporarily suspending the free self vacuums @ all locations."

On its website, which lists 11 locations across southeast Michigan, a message regarding COVID-19 reads: "We are open and welcoming customers for our regular services and all memberships are still active. We have implemented rigorous cleaning protocols and using products which effectively eliminate viruses and germs to keep our environment safe and clean!"

Fast Splash has locations across Metro Detroit.

According to the state website, under the governor's order, “car washes or car detailing businesses do not employ critical infrastructure workers," so employees should stay home.

“The State has provided clear guidance that the operations of this type of business are ‘not necessary to sustain or protect life’ as noted in the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order,” Nessel said. “People continue to die each day from COVID-19, and we all must stay the course and comply with the order to protect as many lives as possible. I know Prosecutor Worthy shares my feelings that anyone recklessly disobeying the executive orders and authorities enforcing them, will face consequences.”  

Willful violations of the executive order can result in a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail for each offense, as well as licensing penalties for businesses and other entities, state officials said Tuesday.

“In times like these, hard decisions must be made and ones that put the safety of Michigan’s residents first are the right decisions to make," Worthy said. "When violations are reported and confirmed, they will be taken seriously.” 

Last week, Whitmer extended the stay-at-home policy, adding new prohibitions on travel between homes, garden centers at large retail stores and motorized boating.

Through Tuesday, the state reported 27,001 COVID-19 cases and 1,768 deaths.