Defiant restaurant owner continues fight with the state

Ottawa County

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A Holland restaurant owner who spend time in jail last month for defying the state’s COVID-19 orders is eager to reopen, but remained defiant when asked about her willingness to comply with restrictions moving forward.

As the legal battle continues, the state agency that oversees restaurant licensing said Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria can reopen as soon as the establishment owner, Marlena Pavlos-Hackey, agrees to cooperate with the state to get her food license reinstated.

“MDARD remains ready to work with the establishment on a path toward resolution,” the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development stated in a court document filed April 23. “Unfortunately, as of yet, the establishment has not agreed to work with MDARD to resolve the instant case or take the steps necessary for reinstatement of their food service establishment license.”

News 8 spoke with Pavlos-Hackney and her attorney Robert Baker over Zoom Wednesday evening, asking the owner about what’s next in their legal battle and if she plans to comply with state’s COVID-19 restrictions moving forward.

When asked if she’d enforce the mask mandate and follow other restrictions like capacity limits once reopened, Pavlos-Hackney gave the following response.

“Why do we have to follow those rules? Look at different states, (where) everyone is open and everyone is healthy,” Pavlos-Hackney said.

When pressed with a follow-up question asking would the restaurant owner reopen only to risk being shut down again for breaking the rules, Pavlos-Hackney’s attorney stepped in.

“I’m going to stop you right there,” Baker said. “I’m going to work together with Marlena and figure out a way where we can comply with what they’re asking. If we can, then she will reopen and if she can’t, then we won’t.”

After spending four nights in jail last month, Pavlos-Hackney was released on the condition she’d close the restaurant and pay a $15,000 fine.

Upon her release, Pavlos-Hackney hired Baker as her defense attorney.

Baker recently filed several motions on Pavlos-Hackney’s defense, requesting the order of contempt to be voided and her restaurant license reinstated. Among the motions filed, Baker also requested a refund for the fines Pavlos-Hackney paid.

“The main thing is to get her reopened and then secondarily, we are trying to get the contempt voided out and her money back,” Baker said.

On Tuesday, the judge adjourned the case for two weeks, giving Baker time to file a more complete motion regarding alleged errors in the court transcript for a previous hearing.

Once the matter is resolved, the judge plans to move forward on hearing arguments regarding the motions filed.

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