State shuts down defiant northern Michigan restaurant after continuing to operate without a license

A northern Michigan restaurant has received a temporary restraining order after continuing to operate despite having its license suspended.

Cafe Rosetta, a local eaterie that operates in Calumet - located in Houghton County - had earlier brushes with Michigan's regulatory agencies in November when the health department fined them $1,000 over health code violations. In early December, the agriculture department suspended the business's license.

After a ruling from an administrative law judge that the restaurant's license should remain revoked in a later hearing, Cafe Rosette continued offering indoor dining.

Michigan officials continue to maintain that the majority of local businesses in the state have operated within the boundaries of epidemic orders that have come down through the fall.

A table stands empty at a permanently closed restaurant in Manhattan on Aug. 31, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

However, the state's liquor control commission has still revoked alcohol licenses for several businesses around Michigan. On Nov. 25, the MLCC announced three locations in Newaygo County, Fremont, and Fenton had lost their licenses over multiple violations of the health department's emergency order.

The escalation of penalties directed at Cafe Rosetta is among the most extreme reported in the state, being the first to be ordered to shutdown due to health code infractions.

On Dec. 2, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development determined the restaurant's continued operation "created an imminent or substantial endangerment of public health," forcing it to suspend their food establishment license.

On Dec. 10, a hearing determined the license's suspension should continue. After the restaurant defied the order,  Ingham County Judge Wanda Stokes issued a temporary restraining order on Dec. 31.

"Epidemic orders issued by the state are meant to be temporary, but they only work if everybody follows the same rules," said MDARD Director Gary McDowell. "There are thousands of Michigan restaurants, bars, and businesses trying to do right by their communities and fellow business owners, but their sacrifices must not be undermined because others ignore the law and make up their own rulebook during a pandemic."

Cafe co-owner Amy Heikkinen, a mother of six, said she can't afford to limit her business to carry-out orders. She said sales are up because of her dispute with authorities.

"It’s my right to earn an income to protect and feed my family," she said. "That’s the right of every American. You can’t make me not work."

The restraining order was to be served by Thursday. The agriculture department filed the case in Ingham County, the seat of state government, bypassing a judge in the cafe's home county.

The Associated Press contributed to this report