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.’”