Michigan businesses sue Gov. Whitmer for ‘devastating’ COVID lockdown losses: ‘Never again!’

A coalition of Michigan businesses is suing Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director Robert Gordon for allegedly “taking” their businesses without just compensation during the state’s strict COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020.

According to the plaintiffs — a group of five bowling alleys and family entertainment centers that are suing for losses from the state’s COVID lockdowns — the restrictive mandates imposed by Whitmer violated the constitutions of both the state of Michigan and the United States of America.

It is a case that has been making its way through the federal courts since January 2021.

While the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan ruled against the coalition, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit recently heard oral arguments that David Kallman, chief counsel for the plaintiffs, called “vigorous.”

“The oral arguments from both sides were vigorous,” Kallman told The Epoch Times following the appeals court hearing. “The judges asked a lot of questions. It was the kind of proceeding that makes you proud to be a lawyer.”

“Even the defense acknowledges that we are presenting ‘novel’ arguments,” he continued. “Michigan is the only state in the nation where a governor’s public health emergency powers were overturned as unconstitutional.”

As BizPac Review reported in January, the Iron Pig Smokehouse had reportedly repeatedly defied Whitmer’s authoritarian lockdown orders by staying open for indoor diners and refusing to require its patrons to wear facemasks. For its rebellion, the establishment was fined $5,000 and its food and liquor license was temporarily suspended.

The Iron Pig sued, and in a 31-page decision, Judge Colin Hunter ruled that “the section of the health code that allowed the director of the state health department to issue emergency orders didn’t pass constitutional muster because it failed to include any standards on the scope or duration of the director’s authority,” the Petoskey News-Review reported at the time.

 

“The governor’s actions were devastating to our industry,” Scott Bennett, executive director of the Independent Bowling and Entertainment Centers Association, told The Epoch Times. “Things went from ‘two weeks to slow the spread’ to indefinite shutdowns.”

Bennett noted that, while Walmarts and the GM plants were allowed to remain open, bowling alleys and entertainment centers were ordered to close without any scientific evidence to show they would be more likely than the exempted businesses to spread COVID-19.

“They were allowed to operate with hundreds and even thousands of people in them, but we had to shut down,” Bennett said. “We feel our industry was unfairly singled out.”

“We cannot stand for a repeat of such arbitrary treatment and don’t want the people of Michigan to forget what was done to them,” he added.

With the midterm elections quickly approaching and a reported uptick in COVID cases, Bennett and his colleagues fear another round of arbitrary lockdowns could happen again.

“It’s like operating day to day with a hammer held over your head,” he said. “The uncertainty is altering business plans. The value of our businesses is dropping through the floor.”

Fred Kautz, owner of Kautz’s Shore Lanes in Lexington, MI, said his family business is still feeling the effects of the lockdowns.

“We lost a lot of money at the time,” he said. “We are coming back slowly, but our overall revenue is still down 20 percent from pre-pandemic days. That’s hard to make up.”

While Kautz says he tried to go along with the state’s recommendations and policies in the spring of 2020, he won’t be doing it again.

“Never again!” he exclaimed. “If my dad was still alive, he’d have never closed at all.”

Brian and Mindy Hill own a 16-lane bowling alley, bar, and snack bar in Imlay City, and they are still having a hard time believing their government could do what they have done in response to COVID.

“They shut us down,” Brian Hill said. “They took away our livelihood with no end date in sight. Then they wanted to loan us money.”

“Think about that,” he continued. “They first put us in a situation where we had zero income to pay our previous debt. And then they wanted to loan us more money. Lots of small-business people lost their businesses but kept their debt. It ruined them.”

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