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Back in business: Cafe Rosetta food license restored; court lifts preliminary injunction

Cafe Rosetta food license restored; court lifts preliminary injunction

Provided photo Amy Heikkinen, who co-owns Cafe Rosetta, with her brother Jake, in Calumet, is excited to reopen her business Thursday. The cafe had been closed, but had its food license restored Wednesday after the primary injuction in Ingham County Circut Coutragainst it was lifted.

LANSING — Cafe Rosetta is cleared to reopen after Ingham County Circuit Court lifted the preliminary injunction against it Wednesday morning, potentially ending a dispute that saw the Calumet restaurant become a flashpoint in the state battle over COVID-19 restrictions.

Owner Amy Heikkinen said Cafe Rosetta will reopen at 7 a.m. Thursday.

“I’m glad it wrapped up, and I’m glad we got that clarification,” she said. “That’s what we were aiming for, so I think it was a success. It’s a fluid situation. Things keep changing. I look forward to the day we’re getting back to where we were before COVID.”

David Kallman, who has represented Cafe Rosetta in court, said he is happy for his client.

“She now can be open,” he said. “Under these new guidelines and the way things are going, hopefully it won’t be long before everybody’s open all the time.”

The move follows a joint inspection last week by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) and Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD). That inspection found Cafe Rosetta would not present an “imminent threat” to public health and safety, provided it followed the corrective action plan it submitted to the state.

“The parties agree and understand that this order resolves only MDARD’s claims for emergency injunctive relief regarding Cafe Rosetta operating without a license and in no way limits or prevents MDARD from seeking any additional authorized penalty for any past or future violation of the Michigan Food Law,” the court order states.

Although dissolving the injunction, the order states Cafe Rosetta must comply with the final plan submitted to MDARD. The court will also retain jurisdiction over the issue for one year or until the state’s COVID-19 emergency orders are lifted, whichever comes first.

The order also permanently enjoins Cafe Rosetta from operating without a food license.

Before closing on Feb. 6, Cafe Rosetta had continued operating during the ban on indoor dining, which to a cease-and-desist order from WUPHD. When Cafe Rosetta failed to follow the order, MDARD suspended its food license on Dec. 2.

It continued to operate, racking up three contempt of court orders and $10,000 in fines.

The action plan, dated Feb. 22, includes promises to follow state COVID-19 emergency orders and rules. Plastic barriers will be installed at the checkout counter. It will also follow the state’s 50% capacity limits for indoor dining, currently 16 people. Employees will be required to wear face coverings. Heikkinen, who said she has a medical issue which prevents her from wearing a mask, will wear a face shield.

“Anybody who’s an employee who’s medically intolerant has that option, and we didn’t have that before,” she said.

Signage at the cafe will remind people they must wear masks inside, and masks will also be made available to customers who do not have one. As with other establishments, anyone with a medical inability must verbally convey that to the staff.

“One of the issues that was brought up during the inspection was ‘What if 100% of your customers are medically exempt?'” she said. “That’s not my liability. My only liability is to ask for people to wear a mask.”

The plan also includes things such as requiring customers to provide information for contact tracing in the event of a positive COVID-19 case.

Cafe Rosetta’s air filtration system was installed in 2018, while its exhaust system exceeds code, Cafe Rosetta said in its plan. It also has an average turnover time of 13 minutes, while 30% of sales are pickup, online or curbside.

According to a compliance agreement, WUPHD will conduct a routine inspection within 30 days. Inspections will temporarily go to every three months, instead of six. If Cafe Rosetta demonstrates continual compliance at the three-month mark, the inspection schedule will return to normal, according to the compliance agreement.

Cafe Rosetta may still have legal action ahead. An appeal is pending against the fines levied by the department of health and Human Services, Kallman said. He did not remember the specific amount Wednesday, but said it was several thousand dollars.

“Whether or not Amy wants to push that issue or frankly be done with it, she could make that call in the next few days and see where it goes,” he said.

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