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GoFundMe for Pizzeria Owner Defying COVID Rules Surpasses $200K Goal After Jail Sentence

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An online fundraising campaign created to support jailed Michigan restaurant owner Marlena Pavlos-Hackney surpassed its original $200,000 goal on Sunday afternoon. The owner of Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria was arrested last week after repeatedly refusing to follow the state’s operational mandates for food service establishments during the COVID pandemic.

The fundraising initiative’s host increased the goal to $250,000 on Sunday. Pavlos-Hackney’s legal proceedings have garnered national attention from conservatives, many of whom have pushed back against Michigan’s COVID-19 mitigation measures for the better part of a year. Among other programs she was recently featured on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight.

Hundreds of local residents, hopeful elected officials and state Republican leaders rallied behind Pavlos-Hackney’s cause during a demonstration held outside her eatery on Saturday in Holland, Michigan.

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Demonstrators held signs demanding the arrest of Governor Gretchen Whitmer as well as Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose office announced that Pavlos-Hackney was taken into custody early Friday morning. Pavlos-Hackney had continued to operate her business as usual despite a range of state orders issued as part of the state’s COVID-19 response, which included periods of mandated restaurant closures and regulations stipulating capacity limits, physical distancing and the use of face masks. The restaurant owner’s arrest came after she refused to halt operations following a suspension of her food establishment license, and later, a patron’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

“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,” said Nessel in her office’s Friday announcement. “MDARD [Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development] 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.”

An GoFundMe fundraiser to support Michigan restaurant owner Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, who was arrested Friday after repeatedly defying COVID-19 orders at her Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria, surpassed its $200,000 goal on Sunday. In the photograph above, a sign displays “Open Carry Out Only” at a restaurant on April 22, 2020 in Plymouth, Michigan.
Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

Pavlos-Hackney appeared before Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina during a court hearing on Friday, and will remain in custody at Ingham County jail while state personnel monitor the restaurant to confirm it is truly closed. The owner also faces a $7,500 fine, which she voiced intent to pay on Friday in addition to shutting down the restaurant. Aquilina further ordered that Richard Martin, who attempted to represent Pavlos-Hackney during the hearing without a license to practice law in Michigan, be held in contempt of court for up to 93 days.

“We’re in the midst of a pandemic,” Aquilina said during the hearing, addressing Pavlos-Hackney. “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.”

The Liberty Buzz contacted Marlena’s Bistro and Pizzeria for comment but did not receive a reply.

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