On March 19, Holland pizzeria owner Marlena Pavlos-Hackney was arrested for violating COVID-19 protocol at her restaurant, Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria. The restaurant owner was arrested after months of violating numerous COVID-19 protocols including mask-wearing, social distancing and seating capacity guidance. The state suspended the restaurant’s license on January 20 and again on February 11; however, Pavlos-Hackney continued to keep the restaurant open.
The decision to open the restaurant in spite of her violations of the law resulted in Pavlos-Hackney’s arrest, and she will be in jail until she closes her restaurant to comply with the suspension of her license and pays a $7,500 fine. According to The Detroit News, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office believes this has been the first incident of a restaurant owner’s arrest for COVID-19 violations, with most complying after initial warnings.
Critics have seen Pavlos-Hackney’s arrest as an attack on small businesses, especially during the economic difficulties of the pandemic. However, others have seen the move as necessary due to the ongoing public health crisis. During Pavlos-Hackney’s court hearing, Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said, “We’re in the midst of a pandemic. You have selfishly not followed the orders. You’ve not followed them for your own financial gain and apparently for the publicity that comes with it,” according to The Detroit News.
As restaurants and other small businesses reopen, crucial COVID-19 safety protocols prove to be both necessary and effective. “It’s a shame that we are over a year into this pandemic and there are still people breaking COVID guidelines,” freshman Ellie DiLeonardi said. “However, we hope people can continue to support small businesses that follow COVID guidelines,” freshman Taylor Bambule added.