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Small-town barber wins early victory in fight to stay open

Posted at 1:12 PM, May 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-12 13:15:00-04

LANSING, Mich. — A judge on Monday declined to stop a defiant Michigan man who reopened his barbershop despite a state order that has closed businesses for weeks because of the coronavirus.

The judge rejected a request for a restraining order and said Karl Manke deserves a hearing if the state wants to shut down his business in Owosso.

The 77-year-old has become a symbol of resistance to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s sweeping stay-home order and other restrictions to stop the spread of the virus.

“I came into this last Monday alone, thinking I’m going to swing in the wind alone,” Manke said, lowering his face mask and fighting back tears. “I cannot believe the support that I’ve got. It’s overwhelming.”

Manke reopened his barbershop on May 4, saying he was despondent over not working and that he could make his own decisions

Manke was given a cease-and-desist order from state regulators last week. Separately, he’s been given at least two misdemeanor tickets by police. Meanwhile, people from all over Michigan have filled his shop waiting for a haircut.

“I’m going to stay open until Jesus comes,” Manke pledged.

On Monday, May 11, a crowd gathered outside Karl Manke's barbershop in Owosso Monday - vowing to stand up for the small business owner after Shiawassee County Sheriff Brian Begole posted on Facebook, saying his office does not have enough deputies to enforce the governor's executive orders.

Sheriff Begole did not want to go on camera, but undersheriff Robert Brancheau told News 10 there have been some misunderstandings since that post.

The governor was asked about the barber earlier Monday.

“I also know a lot of people who could use a haircut, yours truly included as well as my husband. ... I expect people to follow the law,” Whitmer said. “These executive orders are not a suggestion. They’re not optional. They’re not helpful hints.”

State regulators consider the barbershop to be a danger to public health because of the pandemic and will seek a court hearing as soon as possible, said Ryan Jarvi, spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

Manke’s attorney, Dave Kallman, said the state has gone too far.

“If you can walk down the aisles at Walmart, you can walk down the aisles in Karl’s barbershop and practice the same physical distancing, hand-washing, all the things we’ve been hearing on and on,” Kallman said.

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