Span­gler’s Family Restaurant refused to close after Michi­gan’s latest COVID-19 clo­sures. Courtesy | Facebook

Spangler’s Family Restaurant in Jonesville will con­tinue offering dine-in ser­vices, despite the Michigan health department’s Nov. 15 order closing all dine-in restau­rants again due to COVID-19.

Spangler’s Owner Mitch Spangler said he has received threats and visits from the health department due to this decision to remain open but is pressing forward.

“The news of the initial shutdown was frus­trating,” Spangler said. “For our com­munity, it’s deer hunting season and hunters from out of town need a place to eat.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Ser­vices issued an emer­gency order last week requiring, among other reg­u­la­tions, that all restau­rants in the state revert to take-out at least until Dec. 9.

After two days of shutting down, Spangler said his business dropped to 20% of its normal level. The family restaurant also employs 25 – 30 people in the Hillsdale com­munity whose livelihood depends on their employment at the restaurant, he said.

“It’s not just about being open, it’s about sur­viving as a business,” Spangler said. “Our employees are moms who have kids; one of our employees is pregnant; another is a 19-year-old kid. This is his first job and he just bought a car. It’s about people and liveli­hoods.”

Spangler has invested more than $500,000 in the restaurant with the financial assis­tance of friends and family over the past three years, including the pur­chase and remodel of the Spangler’s Family Restaurant building and Hilltop Creamery, according to a Facebook post.

 Spangler wrote in a Facebook post, “The first shutdown hit us hard. We only recently were starting to recover. However, this time we are not going to be able to make it through and stay open on only take-out and delivery.”

Spangler said he decided to attend a meeting of the Inde­pendent Bowling & Enter­tainment Centers Asso­ci­ation in Lansing, Michigan on Nov. 23. More than 75 business owners of restau­rants and bars attended the meeting and con­tributed to the IBECA Legal Defense Fund for legal rep­re­sen­tation of the small busi­nesses as they remain open.

The group hired attorney David Kallman, the lawyer rep­re­senting barber Karl Manke from Owosso, Michigan, who refused to close his business during the spring shutdown. The Michigan Supreme Court decided in favor of Manke.

A newsletter from IBECA’s Exec­utive Director Scott Bennett listed several pur­poses for the intention of the fund. One reason he cites is tied to the con­sti­tu­tion­ality of the shutdown of busi­nesses. 

“Begin legal action for just com­pen­sation, “the letter read.“The power of eminent domain is defined by the ‘Takings Clause’ of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Con­sti­tution, which pro­hibits the federal gov­ernment from taking private property for public use ‘without just com­pen­sation.’ This clause also applies to state and local gov­ern­ments through the Four­teenth Amendment.”

Spangler reopened his restaurant on Sat­urday, Nov. 28 at 7:30 a.m. The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Com­munity Health Agency issued its first warning to the business that day, telling Spangler that opening his restaurant during the lockdown is “unac­ceptable and not allowed,” according to Spangler.

“On Sunday, they came and issued a cease-and-desist, requesting that I close my business,” Spangler said. “They asked if I’m going to close my business, and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’”

Health inspectors don’t notify business owners when they will be stopping by, so Spangler said he is unsure what their next steps will be. According to Spangler’s attorney, they will take the case all the way to the Supreme Court, if need be.

While the restaurant decided to remain open, Spangler’s Family Restaurant con­tinues to follow all of Michigan’s COVID-19 guide­lines prior to the shutdown, including reduced capacity, wearing masks, dis­in­fecting all sur­faces, and using an elec­tro­static fogger.

“People are trusting us, so we’re going to do what we can while we’re staying in business,” Spangler said.

Spangler’s decision to remain open has shown that with high risk, there is a high reward.

“We’ve been open for two days and, they have been both amaz­ingly busy and good days for the restaurant,” he said. “We have finally made some headway in the bills we owe.”

During this time, the com­munity has come alongside Spangler and his restaurant, proving the value of small-town rela­tion­ships.

“The belief system of our com­munity is one of freedom — the reason Hillsdale College is where it is — the com­munity is more sup­portive of the inde­pendent American belief system,” Spangler said. “It’s been over­whelm­ingly hum­bling seeing the number of people who have been in and who have made per­sonal com­ments and who are saying, ‘Thank you for being open.’”