Restaurant Owner Jailed For Defying COVID Restrictions Has Been Released

Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, 55, from Holland, Michigan, was jailed over the weekend for not following orders and restrictions related to the coronavirus. She owns a restaurant named Marlena's Bistro and Pizzeria and was told she would remain incarcerated until she paid $7,500 and her restaurant was confirmed as being closed. Yesterday, her husband paid a $15,000 fine and a motion was filed to have Pavlos-Hackney released.

ABC News has the details. Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said upon the restaurant owner's arrest, "She has put the community at risk. We are in the middle of a pandemic." According to investigators, Pavlos-Hackney kept indoor dining open even after restaurants were ordered closed for dine-in over the winter, and while in operation, the restaurant wasn't following capacity limits or enforcing mask mandates. The business was still operating even after the its food license was suspended back on January 20, they said.

Pavlos-Hackney was ruled in contempt of court during a March 4 hearing, and was ordered to be arrested if the restaurant did not close. State police arrested her on March 19 near Holland, Michigan, and sent her to the Ingham County jail, 90 miles away.

"We don't want this country to be a communist regime that's going to dictate what we can do and what we cannot do," Pavlos-Hackney told WOOD-TV last Thursday, just before her predawn arrest on Friday. The restaurant continued to be open even after she was arrested. While other businesses have had their licenses suspended for violating COVID restrictions, the owner of Marlena's Bistro appears to be the first person who has been jailed for failing to follow these rules.

At the hearing, the judge asked if Pavlos-Hackney would pledge to tell the truth, but Pavlos-Hackney did not respond.

"I know you want to control this room but this isn't Burger King," Aquilina said. "When the sign changes to Burger King you can have it your way. Right now this is my courtroom, and you will answer my questions."

Prior to Pavlos-Hackney's arrest, a GoFundMe page had already been raising money for Marlena's Bistro, explaining how Marlena is the embodiment of the American Dream (she escaped Communist Poland to later open her successful Midwest business), while likening COVID restrictions to the actions of an authoritarian regime and encouraging "American Patriots" to "beat back socialism." The GoFundMe has so far raised $254,000.