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‘Rebellion becomes duty,’ Newaygo restaurant owner says of decision to operate

Jim Cory, owner of Jimmy’s Roadhouse, has been fined and had his liquor license suspended for staying open in defiance of a state health department order.

NEWAYGO, Mich. — A Newaygo restaurant owner under fire for serving patrons in defiance of a state health department order is calling on others to open their doors to protest what he calls “Draconian rules by a tyrannical governor.’’

Opposition of a state health department order prohibiting indoor dining “is the duty of all bar and restaurant owners,’’ said Jim Cory, owner of Jimmy’s Roadhouse.

“The message I want to say is exactly what Thomas Jefferson said: When tyranny becomes law, like it has right now, rebellion becomes duty,’’ Cory said.

Cory’s remarks come as the state this week announced citations against 13 businesses for violating a public health order that prohibits patrons from gathering inside of bars and restaurants.

Individual fines range from $1,000 to $11,000; Cory’s fine was $1,000.

Cory said legions of patrons have visited his restaurant, despite a health department order banning indoor dining. 

In May, he opened the restaurant in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home executive order. Bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen in June, with numerous restrictions in place.

But as COVID-19 cases began to climb in the fall, the state announced that bars and restaurants would again be closed to indoor dining beginning on Nov. 18. 

Rather than an executive order, the restrictions were imposed through a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order. The order was renewed in December and is currently in place until Jan. 15.

MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said “the vast majority’’ of restaurant and bar owners have complied to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

“We continue to see improvements in the numbers, and we know that the public health orders we have put in place are working,’’ Gordon said in a news release. “I look forward to the day when indoor service can reopen.’’

Cory said he and others cannot take the prolonged shutdowns. “Livelihoods are at stake,’’ he said.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association says since the start of the pandemic, more than 2,000 restaurants have permanently closed in Michigan.

Jimmy’s Roadhouse is one of several Michigan businesses to also have its liquor license suspended for violating the state health department order against indoor dining. Cory continues to operate, but is not serving alcohol.

He likens his defiance to what took place during the American Revolution. 

“It’s our duty because our country was formed in the bars and the restaurants and taverns. Public houses,’’ Cory said. “It’s public discourse. Public discourse formed our country and our governor doesn’t want us to have public discourse.’’

    

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