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Michigan strikes back by suspending elderly barber’s license

Posted at 7:26 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 19:26:34-04

OWOSSO, Mich. — State regulators on Wednesday suspended the license of a 77-year-old Michigan barber who insisted on cutting hair despite an order to stay closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Karl Manke has pledged to keep his shop open “until Jesus comes.” A judge declined the state’s request to shut down his shop Monday without first holding a hearing. Regulators took a different path by suspending his barber license and his shop license.

The attorney general's office issued an administrative licensing complaint on Tuesday, alleging several violations of the Michigan Occupational Code and administrative rules, including gross negligence and willful violations of the health and safety rules of a political subdivision.

The attorney general's office said the licensing actions follow Manke's statements that he will continue to operate his barbershop despite Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive orders requiring the closure of facilities offering non-essential personal care services.

Nessel's office said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon issued an "Imminent Danger and Abatement Order, requiring Manke to close his barbershop and he did not comply.

“It’s pure retribution. It’s abuse of power: How dare you stand up to me?” said Manke’s attorney, Dave Kallman.

The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs declined to comment. Manke can ask for an immediate hearing with an administrative law judge.

His shop is in Owosso, a small town located northeast of Lansing. A woman who answered the phone at his shop said Manke hadn’t been served with the suspension and was still cutting hair. A clipper could be heard buzzing in the background.

Hair salons and barber shops have been closed for weeks by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But Manke, wearing a mask, reopened on May 4, saying an extension of the governor’s order had “knocked me to my knees.”

He said he needs to work and can keep his shop and customers safe.

“The government is not my mother, never has been,” Manke said Monday. “I’ve been in business longer than they’ve been alive.”

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