- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2020

Joseph Tahanian’s Wine Cave is an “essential” business as far as he’s concerned, and that is why he vowed to reopen in defiance of California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus shutdown orders.

Then the state lowered the boom on Mr. Tahanian’s popular wine bar in Modesto.

“I got a call, kind of threatening, from some authorities — I don’t want to say exactly which ones — saying I had better not open,” Mr. Tahanian said. “And then I heard from the alcohol beverage control board that they would take away my liquor license. Well, what was I going to do? My hands were tied.”

More business owners across the country are turning into rebels or even outlaws as they fight state government coronavirus edicts that threaten to close them down permanently.

From Massachusetts to California and from Michigan to Texas, the business-versus-government battles are signs that the lockdowns are starting to buckle.

“If you think about it from a more ‘natural rights’ point of view, there are certain rights people have inherently,” said Devin Watkins, a lawyer with the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute think tank. “People should speak out, cherish these rights and insist they not be violated. If they are, everyday people will defy them and we are starting to see that now.”

SEE ALSO: Criminal defense attorneys plea for officials to stop throwing virus shutdown violators in jail

He said the stay-at-home orders smack of authoritarianism and invite protests.

“How are these rules coming into place? They aren’t going through the legislatures; it’s not the way the rule of law is supposed to be done,” he said. “People know the facts on the ground. People know the dangers.”

In the most celebrated act so far of business disobedience, Dallas hair salon owner Shelley Luther went to jail rather than abide by the shutdown rules — and ultimately won her freedom.

In Michigan, Karl Manke’s barbershop in Owosso is at the forefront of the battle between the merchant class and the state.

Mr. Manke kept spinning his red, white and blue barber pole in defiance of shutdown decrees by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who is also battling the Republican-led Legislature over her strict public health rules.

Mr. Manke has been ticketed twice since he opened in defiance of the law one week ago, and he continues to ignore warnings from prosecutors and the state attorney general.

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The standoff appeared to be escalating when an outfit calling itself the “Michigan Militia” said they would not allow police to enter the barbershop.

In a blow to Ms. Whitmer, the sheriff whose jurisdiction includes Owosso said he wouldn’t go after the barbershop.

“Through this period of uncertainty, I continue to remind myself that we derive our authority from the consent of the governed,” said Shiawassee County Sheriff Brian BeGole. “I have decided, within my authority, that our office cannot and will not divert our primary resources and efforts toward enforcement of Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders.”

The Michigan State Police could intervene against Mr. Manke.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a libertarian group in Michigan, has not taken on Mr. Manke’s case, but a spokeswoman said the center has several small business and health professional clients considering litigation over the prolonged lockdowns.

In Centennial, Colorado, Jennifer Hulan opened up Waters Edge Winery & Bistro on May 1 in defiance of the ongoing shutdown ordered by Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat.

Ms. Hulan said she and her husband invested half a decade and a life’s savings into their restaurant and she felt compelled to reopen.

“If I didn’t, I’m going to lose my business,” she told Complete Colorado.

• Valerie Richardson contributed to this report.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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