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Marlena's Bistro and Pizzeria packed with customers, despite warrant for owner's arrest for defying state COVID-19 orders

MDARD said Marlena's continued to willfully violate the state's food laws, public health orders, and the order of the court. Many customers showed up in support.

Friday, the parking lot and dining room at Marlena's Bistro and Pizzeria, located at 909 Lincoln Ave. in Holland, was packed with customers for its lunch rush. That's despite an order for the owner's arrest the previous day. 

Thursday, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) requested a motion for contempt for Marlena's. According to court documents, a bench warrant was issued for Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, holding her in contempt for failing to abide by the court's preliminary injection by Judge Wanda Stokes in the 30th Circuit Court. The judge also imposed a $7,500 fine.

This movement comes after the restaurant was given a cease-and-desist order from MDARD in December for failing to comply with state orders. At the time, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) banned indoor dining at restaurants to slow the spread of COVID-19. In January, the state suspended Marlena's food establishment license.

RELATED: 'Your health is your responsibility' | Holland restaurant receives cease-and-desist letter for defying MDHHS orders

Marlena's continued to serve customers. A notice on the door of the restaurant reads, "We are a constitutionally compliant business. We are not infringing on anyone’s unalienable rights. By law, we do not follow any of the governor's, mayor's, health department's, or other government agency’s orders or suggestions pertaining to social distancing or ask wearing. Your health is your responsibility."

The Allegan County Health Department also notified the public Thursday a customer of Marlena's on February 27th tested positive for COVID-19. In a press release, the department said, "Individuals who were at Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria on Saturday February 27 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. are potentially considered exposed to COVID-19 due to the lack of mitigation strategies (mask-use and social distancing) practiced at this restaurant. These individuals should monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19. If individuals develop symptoms, they should isolate and get tested for COVID-19."

Credit: 13 OYS
During lunchtime Friday, the parking lot was nearly full outside Marlena's Bistro and Pizzeria.

Pavlos-Hackney denied a request to speak or provide a statement to 13 ON YOUR SIDE. On Thursday, the restaurant's Facebook page provided the following statement: 

"Hello everyone just to keep you updated my hearing took place today and i would like to provide you with an update on what happened while we had the court hearing with Wanda M. Stokes she is the judge out of the city of Mason and county of Ingham, State of Michigan. She has now issued a bench warrant for my arrest and also a 7,500 fine due to staying open during this pandemic. I requested the judge to have an assistant of counsel to represent [sic] me on my behalf Rick Martin from constitutional law group. At the hearing i responded to her this statement from the constitutional right handbook that states " Any judge who does not comply with his oath to the Constitution and engages in acts in violation of the supreme law of the land. The judge is engaged in acts of treason. Once i stated what my rights were she then said that this is her court and she is going to follow her rules and that she would mute me if i spoke out of turn. I am in contact with the Sheriff of Allegan and Holland Michigan to protect me and my restaurant due to constitutional secured protected rights. We are still here and we will excercise [sic] my RIGHT please continue to support me and we will see you all again tomorrow! GOD BLESS AMERICA."

Customers who dined Friday at Marlena's said they were there to show support for Pavlos-Hackney and the restaurant. Ann Henriksen said she waited two hours for a table, and she left a "tremendous" tip. 

"She’s a small business, she’s about to be crushed by the edicts," said Henriksen, "And yes, we have a pandemic. And yes, we can transmit disease, but on the other hand, it’s a little over done."

Credit: 13 OYS
Inside Marlena's, nearly all tables were filled. Current state order allows only 50 percent capacity for indoor dining, with masks when not eating, and social distancing.

Wendy Hallgren said her two sons are chefs at another restaurant, and both their careers have been "ruined." That is why, in part, she wanted to support Marlena's.

"I just think our governor needs to realize we are adults, we can make our own decisions," said Hallgren, "And to come against her with laws that make no sense, just isn’t fair. She just wants to run her own business."

MDARD said continued enforcement was necessary, because Marlena's current operations pose an "imminent threat" to the community's health, safety, and welfare. 

According to court documents, once arrested, Pavlos-Hackney will be incarcerated until such time she abides by the court's order. 

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