Michigan businesses sue Whitmer over executive order amid coronavirus crisis: 'What we need is a dose of common sense'

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Two Michigan business owners, who filed a lawsuit against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after she imposed one of the strictest stay-at-home orders in the country amid the coronavirus outbreak, said on “Fox & Friends Weekend” on Sunday that the order should exclude their businesses.

“We are representing thousands of business owners like us in the state of Michigan,” Chris Welton, a co-owner of Welton Lawn Care, said. “It’s our peak season and it’s devastating to the entire industry.”

“We have customers that want us to come. They don’t understand why we can’t,” she continued. “We have lost revenue, employees that are laid off that we’re trying to take care of, unused inventory, customer retention issues, that really is a problem.”

Whitmer was facing at least two federal lawsuits challenging her April 9 executive order to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

In the complaints filed last week, several Michiganders said the governor’s recent tightening of restrictions infringed on their constitutional rights.

Whitmer’s April 9 order prohibited people in her state from visiting family or friends in groups of any size, in public or private. It also placed restrictions on what types of businesses may operate and restricted essential businesses from selling non-essential items. It also banned travel to second homes and vacation properties.

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The Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association filed a lawsuit against the governor this past Friday, arguing her order wasn’t fair.

The attorney who filed the suit, John Bursch, said Sunday, “The order specifically allows public employees to mow the grass and trim branches and things like that in public parks while prohibiting private businesses from doing the same for compensation.” He continued, “What’s sad about this is, there are elderly and infirmed Michiganders out there who need their grass taken care of and because they can’t hire out these services, they’re starting to get public-nuisance orders from their local government, because their grass is too long. So, what we need is a dose of common sense here in the midst of the stay-at-home order.”

Welton noted that her employees were the “ultimate social distancers” since they “work solo.”

She explained, “They work outside, they have their own truck, their own equipment, personal protective equipment to keep them isolated from the rest of the world and the only contact they have is with customers through the telephone.”

John Darin Jr., the president of garden supply company English Gardens, said his stores were “all geared up for spring” when they “suddenly” had to close last month.

“We had to lay off over 200 people,” Darin said. “In peak season, we’ll employ up to 400 people, so April is a very big month for us. Our sales will be zero for April and May is the biggest month of the year and June follows.”

“We feel we can prepare a very safe workplace for our employees and our customers to shop because our stores have large outdoor areas. It’s not necessary for a customer to even come in a store,” he explained.

Last week, drivers descended on the state capital as part of a noisy protest. Dubbed “Operation Gridlock” and organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, the protest created bumper-to-bumper traffic throughout downtown Lansing as demonstrators blasted their horns, waved Americans flags and hoisted placards deriding Whitmer’s orders and demanding that she reopen the state’s economy.

Whitmer did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.

However, speaking Sunday on CNN, she continued to defend her updated stay-at-home orders to battle the coronavirus pandemic despite the large protests.

Whitmer argued that she enforced stricter measures because the crisis has hit Michigan particularly hard, saying the orders have helped flatten the curve.

“Michigan right now has the third-highest death count in the country. We are the 10th largest state. As you can deduce, this means we have a uniquely hard issue going on here,” Whitmer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It is disproportionately hurting our state and that is why we need to take a uniquely aggressive action to protect people.”

She added: “We are seeing the curve start to flatten, and that means we're saving lives.”

When asked if her business will be able to survive through the coronavirus-related closure, Welton said, “We will. Some companies won’t.”

She added, “it’s certainly not going to be our best year.”

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Responding to the same question, Darin said he was able to get a Small Business Administration loan through the CARES Act and noted that the money will help.

He added that the next 12 to 18 months will still be “very difficult” given the amount of money already lost, and depending on how much money the business will lose in May and June.

Fox News’ Morgan Phillips and Andrew O’Reilly contributed to this report.