Michigan restaurant owner jailed over virus rules plans to reopen

A restaurant is seen in this undated file photo.

A Michigan restaurant owner who flouted COVID-19 restrictions and spent four nights in jail in March said she plans to reopen in a few weeks.

The food license yanked from Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland has been restored, Marlena Pavlos-Hackney said.

“I’m grateful, but my fight isn’t finished yet,” Pavlos-Hackney said, referring to an appeal of earlier court decisions that landed her behind bars.

Pavlos-Hackney became the face of defiance over enforcement of virus-related restrictions. She continued to welcome indoor diners, despite state and local orders, and ignored other rules aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Pavlos-Hackney said her customers’ health was up to them.

Diners filled tables and held rallies outside the restaurant to support her. Republican Sen. Tom Barrett called Pavlos-Hackney “Michigan’s first political prisoner of the pandemic.”

Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who put Pavlos-Hackney in jail, said she had put the community at risk. The judge also ordered a $15,000 fine.

The restaurant could be open again by Sept. 21. It has been closed since March.

“I suspect there will be a line out her door for a long time. The food is good,” attorney Robert Baker said Friday. “She loves serving people.”