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An "open" sign remains lit near signage for The Iron Pig Smokehouse in Gaylord on Friday, Dec. 4. State regulators suspended the business' liquor license after they said it violated MDHHS epidemic orders. 

LANSING — The Michigan Liquor Control Commission ruled on each of the five downstate restaurants it heard arguments for Friday upon the temporary suspension of the businesses liquor licenses.

The hearings addressed restaurant owners that chose to defy the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19-related orders to close, to stay open for business.

Three restaurants — Jimmy’s Roadhouse in Newaygo; Chapz Restaurant in Lakeview; and Brew Works of Fremont — had license suspensions extended by 60 days. Rock House Grill and Tavern had its license suspension extended by 45 days.

Four of the businesses were fined $600 on top of license suspensions. Brew Works was fined $900.

In the case of the fifth business, The Meeting Place in Fenton, Judge Mike St. John determined the business had served enough of its suspension, and was permitted to sell alcohol again as early as Monday.

St. John wrote in his ruling on The Meeting Place that the business acknowledged their mistake, ceased in-person dining and committed to following the law going forward. Because of that, he believed further suspension was not warranted.

Attorneys for four of the five defendants argued that the MLCC had no authority to suspend the licenses because their clients did not violate the MLCC’s rules, citing a court ruling that favored the Association of Builders and Contractors. The lawsuit challenged MIOSHA’s authority to enforce another agency’s orders.

St. John said in the ruling that simply was not what occurred in this instance.

“Unlike Executive Order 2020-97 which references a MIOSHA statute, the Nov. 15, 2020 Public Health Order does not reference the Michigan Liquor Control Code,” St. John wrote. “Had the Public Health Order made a violation of that order a per se violation of the Liquor Control Code, that would have been impermissible.”

Stephen Kallman, representing Jimmy’s Roadhouse, Chapz Restaurant and Brew Works of Fremont, also argued that each of their businesses were not threats to public health because the MLCC could not tie back specific COVID-19 cases to their business.

St. John said that’s the logic of allowing a customer to drive drunk up to the point that they kill someone.

“There need not be proof of an actual injury to support a threat to public health, safety, or welfare,” the judge said. “The Licensee is not free to do as they please until a case of COVID-19 transmission is confirmed to the Licensee’s establishment.”

Any decisions by the Administrative Law Judge may be appealed.

The decisions could foreshadow how the regulatory agency may rule on the future of the liquor license held by The Iron Pig Smokehouse in Gaylord.

Moore Murphy Hospitality, LLC is set to appear before the MLCC in a virtual hearing Friday after its liquor license was suspended Wednesday of last week.

Ian Murphy, the sole owner of the LLC, issued a statement to TV reporters Dec. 4 that it would suspend the sale of alcohol at 3:30 that day after threats of arrest and fines.

The Iron Pig announced on social media that it is staying open despite orders from the MDHHS to cease indoor dining. Director Robert Gordon extended the MDHHS restrictions and closures by 12 days on Monday.

Follow Andrew Rosenthal on Twitter @ByAndrewR

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