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Big Boy Strips Mich. Restaurant of Franchise After Defiance of Virus Restrictions

'Our backs were against the wall, and we knew we were going to have to fight...'

(Headline USA) A Big Boy restaurant in Michigan’s Thumb region has lost its name after the owners refused to stop indoor dining as part of statewide restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Customers were greeted Friday with Sandusky Diner instead of Sandusky Big Boy, the name for 35 years. The company that grants franchises took action. Big Boy restaurants are known by their statue of a boy in checkered overalls holding a burger over his head.

The Sandusky location, about 88 miles north of Detroit, was one of four eateries cited this week for violating the state’s order against indoor dining. Three other establishments, including one of the restaurants, also had their liquor licenses suspended.

Big Boy’s corporate office told the owners that they had 24 hours to comply with the state’s order, said Troy Tank, part owner and operations manager for the restaurant.

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“We had already decided we weren’t going to do that,” Tank told the Associated Press. “We would be open only for carry-out. We were not in a position to do that again. We had already done it for three months earlier in quarantine.”

Tank said his restaurant struggled during that period.

“Our backs were against the wall, and we knew we were going to have to fight,” he said.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced limits on bars and restaurants amid a surge of COVID-19 cases. A public health order also restricts gatherings.

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The restrictions forced Michigan high schools and colleges to halt in-person classes for three weeks, while entertainment businesses such as casinos, movie theaters and bowling alleys are also closed.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued citations to four restaurants Wednesday, while the Liquor Control Commission suspended the liquor licenses.

Tank said his restaurant has been fined up to $1,000 per day for each day customers are allowed to eat inside.

Patrick Blake, spokesman for Southfield-based Big Boy Restaurant Group, said the Sandusky restaurant is no longer allowed to use the Big Boy brand.

“Big Boy’s number one priority is … the safety of customers and staff” and the Sandusky restaurant’s actions “are not representative of Big Boy standards,” Blake said.

Also cited and fined were Café Rosetta in Calumet, Woodchips Barbecue in Lapeer and The Meeting Place in Fenton. Cory’s Restaurant in Newaygo and B. and D. LLC in Fremont, along with The Meeting Place, had their liquor licenses suspended.

Calls and messages seeking comment were not immediately returned Friday.

Whitmer, meanwhile, wants the Republican-controlled Legislature to approve a $100 million stimulus plan for “families and small businesses that have been hit hardest by the pandemic,” according to a letter obtained by the Detroit News. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet next month.

Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.

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