Barber wins legal round in state’s bid to keep shop closed

Coronavirus

Karl Manke, 77, waves to people gathered just before a press conference on Monday, May 11, 2020 at Karl Manke’s Beauty & Barber Shop in Owosso, Mich. Manke has defied the governor’s order not to conduct business. (Sarahbeth Maney/The Flint Journal via AP)

OWOSSO, Mich. (AP) — A judge on Thursday rejected a request for an injunction that would have strengthened the state’s hand in keeping a Michigan barber shop closed during the coronavirus outbreak.

Karl Manke’s shop in Owosso has been closed since last week when regulators suspended his license. But Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration was seeking an order in a separate action that would have further kept the 77-year-old out of business.

Shiawassee County Judge Matthew Stewart said the state health department failed to show that Manke’s shop was a specific threat to public health.

Photos, news stories and an affidavit from Michigan’s chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, weren’t enough to show that cutting hair and other conditions would contribute to the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19, Stewart said.

“That’s not enough to tip the scales,” the judge said.

Stewart repeatedly noted that authorities could have arrested Manke if they felt his hair cutting was dangerous.

Manke resumed cutting hair on May 4, drawing customers from across the state who were inspired by his plea for freedom from a government shutdown. His shop, 40 miles northeast of Lansing, has turned into a site for small rallies.

Manke has received at least two tickets for violating Whitmer’s orders against businesses deemed nonessential, and his barber license was suspended last week.

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