Court orders defiant Michigan barber to close his shop

Michigan News

FILE – In this May 18, 2020, file photo, Texas hairstylist Shelley Luther hugs barber Karl Manke as she speaks during a news conference outside of Karl Manke’s Barber and Beauty in Owosso, Mich. His license was suspended last week by Michigan regulators for cutting hair in his shop. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP)

DETROIT (AP) — A Michigan court on Thursday ordered a barber to close his shop and stop defying the state’s coronavirus restrictions, though he vowed to keep cutting hair.

The Michigan appeals court overturned a decision by a Shiawassee County judge and directed him to sign an injunction sought by state regulators.

Karl Manke, 77, said he’s not backing down. He told The Associated Press that he got the news while cutting someone’s hair and he doesn’t intend to comply with it.

“I could care less,” he said by phone from his shop in Owosso, about 70 miles northwest of Detroit. “If they want to put me in jail, put me in jail. … I will be governed — fair governing — but not ruled. This is a police state action.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has kept barbershops and hair salons closed for weeks, citing a high risk of virus transmission as stylists cut hair and people wait for their turn.

“Uncontroverted evidence clearly revealed that COVID-19 is a highly communicable illness,” the appeals court said in a 2-1 decision. “Uncontroverted evidence revealed that COVID-19 is spread by infected persons showing no symptoms that could serve to warn others of the possibility of infection.”

Manke’s attorney, David Kallman, later asked the Michigan Supreme Court to intervene.

Manke reopened his shop on May 4, saying he needed to make money and declaring that the “government is not my mother.” He has been ticketed for violating Whitmer’s orders. Separate from the court case, he’s had his shop and barber’s licenses suspended. Nonetheless, customers have traveled from all over the state to get a haircut and endorse his defiance.

Manke gave free haircuts last week during a protest at the state Capitol. Texas hair salon owner Shelley Luther, who was briefly jailed for opening her shop, appeared at a rally outside Manke’s business.

Elsewhere in Michigan, state regulators inspected Ardor and Grit Salon in Holland, according to the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. The owner, Sarah Huff, participated in the Capitol protest, and her shop has been open since May 15.

“She needs to make a living and she believes she can do so safely,” attorney Patrick Wright said.

In Springfield, Missouri, Great Clips salons were temporarily closed after receiving threatening messages. Two hairstylists who tested positive for the coronavirus might have exposed 140 clients to the illness.

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