Holland restaurant owner who defied dine-in ban, license suspension freed

Ottawa County

MASON, Mich. (WOOD) — A Holland restaurant owner who flouted the state’s most recent dine-in ban and then a suspension of her license has been released from jail.

Marlena Pavlos-Hackney’s attorney, Robert Baker, confirmed she was released Tuesday afternoon from the Ingham County Jail, where she had been since Friday.

“She’s a little shaken up, but she’s strong,” Baker told News 8. “She is thankful to be free.”

Baker said a judge signed off on her release after Pavlos-Hackney paid a $15,000 fine and closed her restaurant.

Pavlos-Hackney was arrested after months of back-and-forth with health officials because she refused to stop serving customers at Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria during the fall and winter dine-in ban. Then, when her license was suspended in January, she kept operating anyway. A judge issued a bench warrant for her March 4, saying the restaurant must be closed down. She was arrested by Michigan State Police Friday.

Baker just signed onto the case this week, saying he plans to do things differently by challenging the administrative rules and orders his client is accused of violating, without breaching the current court order.

The judge made it clear that if Pavlos-Hackney reopens the restaurant, another bench warrant will be issued and she’ll go back to jail.

“I can never advise a client to violate a court order,” Baker said. “We fight that appropriately through the appropriate courts.”

The state agency investigating the restaurant sees this as a turning point in the case.

“The department is hopeful that now after months of Ms. Pavlos-Hackney refusing to work with MDARD to resolve this matter, Ms. Pavlos-Hackney will comply with both MDARD’s and the court’s orders and will come into compliance with the food law,” Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Communications Director Jennifer Holton said.

In court last week, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Pavlos-Hackney she would stay behind bars until the judge saw proof that the restaurant was shuttered. Pavlos-Hackney’s supporters and attorneys then shut down the restaurant on Lincoln Avenue near US-31, putting up closed signs and a handmade plywood sign that read “complied.”

Pavlos-Hackney and her supporters have argued that the pandemic mitigation orders are an example of government overreach. Some Republican members of the state Legislature on Monday lamented that the orders have been issued without their input.

Other Holland-area restaurants, meanwhile, have been quietly complying with the pandemic restrictions — even if they disagree.

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