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West Michigan restaurant owner arrested for defying state COVID orders, operating without license

people holding slices of pizza
Brenna Huff

A West Michigan restaurant owner defying state health orders restricting the spread of the coronavirus was arrested Friday.

Marlena Pavlos-Hackney is the owner of Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria. The Holland restauranteur’s food establishment license was suspended in January by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for violating Michigan food laws and public health orders after investigators discovered the restaurant disobeyed seating capacity restrictions and failed to enforce mask requirements. Yet, it remained open.

A court-ordered Temporary Restraining Order was filed. A warrant for Pavlos-Hackney’s arrest was issued March 11 and she was advised by Michigan State Police to turn herself in by March 18. When the 55-year old was a no-show, MSP arrested her Friday morning on an outstanding Ingham County Civil Warrant for Contempt of Court.

“This owner has continued to willfully violate the state’s food laws, public health orders and the order of the court – a dangerous act that may have exposed dozens of diners and employees to the virus following the discovery that one of Marlena’s customers tested positive for the virus within two days of eating there,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said during a press conference Friday. “MDARD is particularly concerned because the potential exposure happened at a restaurant that refuses to comply with basic COVID-19 measures required by the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services.”

This week, before her arrest, Pavlos-Hackney said, “We don’t want this country to be a communist regime.”

She’s now in the Ingham County Jail awaiting a court hearing.

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