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Woodchip’s BBQ in Lapeer defying state order to close dine-in service

The owner says he simply can’t afford to shut down again and is giving away profits
Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 7:13 PM EST
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LAPEER, Mich. (WJRT) - A Lapeer restaurant is defying the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order to close dine-in service beginning Wednesday.

Woodchip’s BBQ restaurant remained open for business Thursday, including dine-in service. The owner said he simply can’t afford to shut down again.

Patrick Hingst is well aware of what potentially could happen if local law enforcement or the Lapeer County Health Department steps in. But staying open is a risk he’s willing to take.

“The last time this happened, it just devastated us. We almost lost the business, had to lay off the majority of our team, tons of financial and emotional stress,” Hingst said. “These people are my family.”

He doesn’t want to put his roughly 26 employees through that experience again, along with the Lapeer community that has supported his decision to stay open.

“I think it’s straining on the economy and you know going through this before, last time I think it was for 95 days, myself working in the restaurant industry, it was mentally a toll,” Hingst said.

The Lapeer County Health Department or local law enforcement could issue tickets or even shut down Woodchip’s BBQ for staying open in violation of the statewide epidemic order.

“We have a great relationship with police and the county sheriff. We were very transparent and pre-emptive in explaining about what we were doing to local officials, so they knew what was happening, why we were doing it and we’re not here to hide,” Hingst said.

He essentially is acting as a nonprofit by offering discounts to frontline workers and meals for families who are struggling.

“For the time being, I’m not accepting any paychecks. My owners will not be taking any profits,” Hingst said. “In fact, our very modest distribution we did recently – some owners are gifting that back.”

The Lapeer County Health Department did not return calls seeking comment about the restaurant on Thursday. A Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesman said enforcement of its epidemic orders fall entirely to the local health department and police.

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