GAYLORD — The food license for the Iron Pig Smokehouse restaurant was reinstated, removing another obstacle preventing owner Ian Murphy from resuming operations.
The restoration of the food permit by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) on Friday capped an eventful day in the three-month old legal saga involving the Gaylord eatery and Murphy.
Earlier, the Health Department of Northwest Michigan dissolved a cease-and-desist order for the Iron Pig after the department and Murphy agreed on a compliance plan involving orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service (MDHHS).
Friday morning, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Clinton Canady III converted a temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction on the restaurant and fined Murphy a total of $1,500 for violating restraining orders issued on Jan. 27 and Feb. 4 aimed at preventing the Iron Pig from selling, advertising or distributing food and beverages.
All of this began last November when Murphy openly defied MDHHS orders banning indoor dining and requiring patrons and staff to wear masks in an effort to address a surge in coronavirus cases in Northern Michigan and the state.
On Nov. 25 the local health department issued its cease-and-desist order after determining the Iron Pig was operating in a manner that presented an imminent and substantial hazard to the public health.
In December, Murphy’s liquor license was and remains suspended by the Michigan Liquor Control Commission for defying the state health department orders. Murphy eventually turned over the liquor license to law enforcement and stopped serving alcoholic beverages.
However the restaurant remained open for in-person dining, which prompted MDARD to suspend his food license on Dec. 29.
Despite the food permit suspension, Murphy continued to operate the restaurant. In January an administrative law judge upheld the suspension of the food license yet Murphy kept the restaurant open for indoor dining.
On Jan. 27, Canady issued a temporary restraining order for the Iron Pig to cease selling, distributing, or advertising food or beverages. Murphy stopped the food service operations for a period of time between Jan. 28 and Jan. 31.
On Feb. 1, the Iron Pig resumed operation without a food license. On Feb. 4, a second restraining order was extended until Feb. 12, when Canady found the Iron Pig in contempt of its orders and converted the restraining order into a preliminary injunction that remains in effect.
Canady said Murphy continued to operate the Iron Pig when most of the other restaurants in the state were closed, enabling him to make a profit off of his misconduct.
“To add injury to insult Defendant (Murphy) has engaged in a marketing campaign by advertising its defiance of the law by developing slogans such as ‘Risk it for the brisket.’ This conduct has been nothing more than a brazen disrespect of not only the law but all of the food-service establishments that followed lawful orders given to them,” Canaday said.
Murphy’s attorney, David Delaney, said it’s unlikely he will be able to request that Canady dissolve the preliminary injunction until Feb. 16 because of the Presidents Day weekend.
That means Murphy wouldn’t be able to legally reopen the restaurant until next week.
The state health department allowed restaurants to resume in-person dining on Feb. 1 with capacity and operating-hour limits.