Bench warrant issued after Holland restaurant owner ignored state shutdown

Allegan County

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A judge on Thursday issued a bench warrant for the owner of a Holland restaurant that didn’t close during a state-mandated shutdown.

A judge said Marlena Pavlos-Hackney should be jailed until she shuts down her restaurant, Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria on Lincoln Avenue near US-31, according to the defendant. Pavlos-Hackney also said the judge ordered her to pay a $7,500 fine.

The state suspended her food establishment license in January because she had not abided by the dine-in ban implemented during the recent coronavirus surge, with state officials also saying she wasn’t requiring masks or social distancing.

A person who was at Marlena’s while the license was suspended tested positive for COVID-19, the Allegan County Health Department said Thursday. They say the person was there Feb. 27 and became symptomatic within 48 hours. The health department says it learned about the case Wednesday through investigation.

While the judge noted that it’s impossible to prove where the person caught the virus, she also noted the connection is concerning and that, regardless, Marlena’s should have been closed because its license was suspended, the Holland Sentinel reports.

Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria on March 4, 2021.

The Allegan County Health Department says anyone who was at the restaurant Feb. 27 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. is considered to have been exposed to the virus since mask wearing and social distancing practices were ignored.

Those who were exposed should monitor their symptoms, isolate themselves and get a COVID-19 test. The health department is reminding that those who don’t show symptoms could still spread the virus to others.

A free COVID-19 testing event will be held Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Allegan County Transportation building located at 750 Airway Drive.

News 8 spoke with Pavlos-Hackney Thursday afternoon. She said she believes her legal rights had been violated.

“The judge has no authority to violate the rights of the people and the constitution of the United States,” Pavlos-Hackney told News 8. “(I’m) in the process of figuring out my legal rights.”

In a Facebook post, Pavlos-Hackney said she’s reached out to the Allegan County Sheriff’s Office and the city of Holland with help in protecting her bussiness.

Allegan County Sheriff Frank Baker told News 8 he’s heard about the situation but has no involvement in the case.

Pavlos-Hackney says she plans to open the restaurant Friday during regular business hours.

“We will keep going,” Pavlos-Hackney said.

One patron told News 8 they support the restaurant owner for taking a stand.  

“She’s a local woman, she’s a business woman … trying to keep her livelihood going,” Jeanne Eskew said. “To be arrested in this country for keeping your business open, I think that’s a crock.” 

— News 8’s Jacqueline Francis contributed to this report.

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