HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A restaurant owner in Holland is bracing for arrest after staying open through the pandemic, ignoring state rules.
Marlena Pavlos-Hackney of Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria was instructed to turn herself in by the end of day Thursday but refused to comply.
An Ingham County judge issued a bench warrant for Pavlos-Hackey during a virtual hearing March 4, saying she should be jailed until she shuts down her restaurant after flouting the most recent state dine-in ban and then ignoring a suspension of her license.
After making multiple attempts to get Pavlos-Hackey to comply, spokesperson Kelly Rossman-McKinney said the Michigan Attorney General’s Office turned the case over the Michigan State Police. Rossman-McKinney said MSP have been instructed to arrest Pavlos-Hackney, at which point she would be taken to Ingham County Jail and arraigned soon thereafter.
News 8 stopped by the restaurant Thursday afternoon, where Pavlos-Hackney was serving customers, refusing to comply with COVID-19 mitigation protocols like mask wearing or capacity limits.
“We don’t want this country to be a communist regime that’s going to dictate what we can do and what we cannot do,” Pavlos-Hackney said.
She said it’s her constitutional right to stay open and operate her business as she sees fit.
“We are deeply concerned for her patrons,” Rossman-McKinney said. “It’s not just staying open, it’s not paying attention to any capacity restrictions, not requiring masks.”
After months of back and forth with state officials, including the suspension of the restaurant’s food license, Pavlos-Hackney said the threat of jail won’t get her to cave.
“I’m not afraid if I have to go to jail, because I fight for freedom,” she said.
Pavlos-Hackney’s customers have hailed her a hero, vowing to support her every step of the way.
“Pizza has nothing to do with it,” customer John Petroejle said. “It’s about her having the right to stay open and she has the right to stay open.”
Also by her side is Rick Martin of the Texas-based Constitutional Law Group. Martin is not a licensed attorney, nor does he have a law degree, which prevents him from defending Pavlos-Hackney in an official capacity in front of the judge. Instead, Martin said he’s serving as assistant of counsel in this case.
If Pavlos-Hackney is arrested, Martin said he will countersue the judge who issued the bench warrant, claiming she acted outside of her authority.
“I’ve already put together a void judgement,” Martin told News 8. “(The judge) had no authority to even issue that bench warrant and we are coming after Judge (Wanda) Stokes for that.”
Another basis of Martin’s argument is that Pavlos-Hackney was within her constitutional rights to continue the operation of her restaurant, claiming she never violated the law.
“There’s no law on the books,” Martin said. “Mandates… are not law. (Laws) have to go through legislation and they have to be voted on by legislators.”
The Attorney General’s Office said it would notify News 8 if and when Pavlos-Hackney is arrested.
Pavlos-Hackney told News 8 she’ll be in jail for as long as it takes to fight for her freedom. In the event she is arrested, Hackney said she has arranged for staff members to continue running her restaurant.