A Michigan judge has denied the state’s request to shut down an Owosso barbershop whose owner continued cutting hair in spite of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order. The executive order, issued March 21 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, temporarily closed hair, nail, and tanning salons, along with other businesses deemed non-essential.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office asked the Shiawassee County Court for a temporary restraining order to have owner Karl Manke cease business operations at his barbershop. That request was denied last week on May 11.
Manke’s hair cutting license was suspended not long after that, on May 13, by the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
The state then requested the preliminary injunction to close the barbershop. Judge Matthew Stewart denied the request Thursday morning.
David Kallman is Manke’s attorney. He says his client has a target on his back.
“This isn’t about a health threat, this isn’t about Mr. Manke spreading the virus far and wide, that’s got nothing to do with this. What this is about is the state taking retaliatory action against a businessman who has decided to open up and not cooperate with the governor’s illegal executive orders,” says Kallman.
“This is about politicizing and weaponizing the licensing agency in our state. It’s weaponizing that agency against anybody who’s a political opponent of the Attorney General or the governor. It’s totally, totally inappropriate.”
Kallman says he expects the attorney general's office will appeal this decision.
“I fully expect the AG’s office will appeal to the court of appeals right away, and we’ll see where it goes from there. It’s probably all going to end up at the Supreme Court,” he says.
The attorney general's office did not respond to a request for comment.
The hearing on LARA’s suspension of Manke’s hair cutting license is set for Tuesday, May 26.