Owosso barber remains open after supporters pay fines for violating order

Owosso barber Karl Manke cuts hair in his Owosso shop in violation of Michigan's "Stay...
Owosso barber Karl Manke cuts hair in his Owosso shop in violation of Michigan's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order.(WJRT)
Published: May. 7, 2020 at 11:46 AM EDT
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(5/7/2020) - Owosso police say they won't issue any more tickets to barber Karl Manke, who remains open Thursday in violation of Michigan's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order.

Manke opened his barber shop in Owosso on Monday even though it has been designated a non-essential business under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's order. The Owosso Police Department issued a warning and two tickets this week.

Supporters have offered to pay part of the fines for the tickets, which could cost up to $500 apiece, and Owosso Public Safety Director Kevin Lenkart said police will not issue more.

Police turned over the matter to the Shiawassee County Prosecutor's Office. Prosecutor Scott Koerner has not returned messages seeking comment on the situation this week.

Manke is concerned about what legal steps may come next, but he's undeterred and plans to stay open as long as he can.

"Whatever way it is, they're going to have to drag me kicking and screaming out of this building," he said.

A group of supporters gathered in front of Manke's shop on Thursday while he continued cutting hair inside. Many of them were holding American flags and signs.

"I'm overwhelmed with all of this. And the support that's coming, I've had other barbers from around the state calling me wondering what they should do," Manke said.

Manke said he reopened after his unemployment benefits were denied three times and he has bills to pay. He's been very busy this week, working well over 12 hours each day.

Inside the shop, there's a line out the door of people waiting for a haircut and people packed together not following social distancing guidelines. Many clients are wearing masks, but some are not.

"I'm here to support Karl. I really am," said Randi Church. "He's doing nothing wrong in my opinion. He's being safe about it, all of his customers are wearing masks."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she understands the frustration and fear many small business owners like Manke are feeling around the state.

“I know this has been a hard time for people trying to make ends meet when everything is shut down,” she said.

However, Whitmer pointed out that her orders were imposed to protect everyone in Michigan from coronavirus, including Manke and his clients. She said being smart and following the data are important.

“We've done incredible work for eight weeks. It's been hard, but we've got to see it through and not waste the sacrifice that we've paid,” Whitmer said.