Michigan Pizzeria Owner Arrested for Defying State COVID-19 Restrictions

March 21, 2021 Updated: March 21, 2021

A restaurant owner in Michigan was arrested on March 19 for defying state CCP virus pandemic restrictions and ignoring a court order, according to the state attorney general.

Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, owner of Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria in Holland, Michigan, was taken into custody following a traffic stop for failing to comply in a civil case filed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

State officials said she kept her restaurant open for indoor dining when it was banned, didn’t comply with capacity limits, and didn’t enforce any mask-wearing rules amid the pandemic. The department then suspended her food license on Jan. 20, but she remained open, according to a statement.

The small-business owner drew media attention this week over her decision to resist the state orders. A judge has characterized her actions as “selfish,” adding that she was putting the community at risk in the middle of a pandemic.

Pavlos-Hackney said her actions were intended to stand up against authoritarianism and to safeguard individual liberty and freedoms. The 55-year-old had fled communism in her home country of Poland in 1983 and arrived in America in 1988. She became a citizen of the United States in 1992 and opened her business in Michigan as she worked toward achieving the American dream.

“We the people, small-business owners, like I told you, have to fight. I will fight for freedom [for] the American people. And I encourage everyone, business owners, other people—stand up and fight for your freedom before it’s going to be taken away,” Pavlos-Hackney told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson this week.

In a separate interview with Glenn Beck, she told the radio host that she’s staying strong because she refuses to let the government “intimidate me or put fear in me.”

“I’m going to keep fighting for American freedom and my constitutionally protected rights,” she said.

Pavlos-Hackney had initially closed her restaurant for about three months in compliance with state orders after the pandemic hit, she told Beck. But she decided to reopen after she felt Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had “overextended her power.” Pavlos-Hackney felt that the orders resembled edicts of authoritarian governments that she was familiar with, according to a GoFundMe page opened in support of the restaurant owner.

“So I decided, we, the small-business owners, have to take control against this tyranny. Because we the people have to have jobs to be able to survive,” she said. “Government and government entities have job security because they are a service. But we the people have to fight for our existence and keep working. So I decide they are not going to close me down.”

An administrative judge in February ruled to continue the suspension of Pavlos-Hackney’s food license and a warrant for her arrest was subsequently issued. She was given until March 18 to turn herself in but failed to do so.

“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.

dana nessel
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks during a news conference in Lansing, Mich., on March 5, 2020. (David Eggert/AP Photo)

Pavlos-Hackney has since received a wave of support from the community. The crowdfunding effort had raised nearly $150,000 for Pavlos-Hackney’s legal fees as of early March 21.

“America is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, and together with like-minded Patriots like YOU, we can overcome and beat back Socialism!” the description on the GoFundMe page states.

Meanwhile, the community organized a “road rally” on March 21 in support of Pavlos-Hackney.

“We will also have a ROAD RALLY taking place all over the city. The Lakeshore REVOLUTION from we the people! Please tell everybody its time to DEFEND OUR REPUBLIC against the over reach of state (and local) government,” the group said on Facebook.

Pavlos-Hackney currently remains in Ingham County Jail, where she has been denied bail until she agrees to follow judge orders, according to online arrest records.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan