OWOSSO — Karl Manke, the owner of a barbershop that opened Monday in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order prohibiting “non-essential” businesses from operating, was served Friday with a cease-and-desist order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
“Executive Order 2020-69, which requires all facilities providing non-essential personal care services to remain closed through May 28, 2020, and order Karl Manke’s Barbershop to immediately close to the public,” the letter states. It is signed by MDHHS Director Robert Gordon.
In an email Friday night, MDHHS said “If the barbershop does not comply with the order, the state will ask a judge in Shiawassee Circuit Court to issue a temporary restraining order. If such an order is issued and the barbershop owner fails to comply, he can be held in contempt of court.”
Manke said Friday evening that six MSP troopers served him with the letter at his business, 421 W. Main St.
Manke declined to comment, but as of 6:45 p.m. Friday, about 30 customers were still in his lobby waiting to get haircuts. He has vowed repeatedly to continue operating his business, even at the risk of going to jail.
Owosso police cited him twice earlier this week for being open despite state orders closing businesses during a COVID-19 pandemic that has killed thousands in Michigan, and 16 in the county.
The citations were for “operating a non-essential business during the governor’s executive orders,” and each carries a possible 90-day jail sentence and/or a $1,000 fine. He is scheduled for a hearing June 6 in 66th District Court, but that date could be delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Manke has no prior criminal record in Shiawassee County.
In a letter issued Wednesday, Owosso officials said businesses violating stay-home orders first will be issued a warning. If violations continue, the letter states, violators will either be issued a civil citation or the prosecutor may issue a misdemeanor complaint. Police initially said they would cite Manke each day, but later said that wouldn’t happen.
Wednesday, 15 to 20 supporters stood along M-21 in front of the shop to show support for Manke, who is also the author of several self-published novels. Many waved U.S. and Gadsden flags, along with Donald Trump flags. Others held signs that urged Whitmer to rescind her executive orders and allow businesses to open. Dozens of passing vehicles honked their horns to show support.
Many of the supporters were members of the Facebook group “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine,” and indicated they planned on showing up today to continue their support.
Manke’s reopening of his shop has attracted attention throughout Michigan, with individuals traveling from as far away as Detroit and Muskegon for haircuts.
At least four gofundme pages have been set up to assist Manke in paying any fines he receives as a result of reopening his shop. Pledges to the accounts have totaled more than $8,700.