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The current order expires in eight days but this business owner says he couldn’t wait any longer.

MICHIGAN —  The Capri drive-in theater in Coldwater opened on Friday to large crowds, being the latest non-essential business to risk its license. 

The theater is included in a business category that the governor’s office says is temporarily prohibited as part of a coronavirus-related executive order set to expire May 28.

“It’s all a double standard,” Tom Magocs, co-owner of the drive-in said, acknowledging the theater isn’t allowed to be open. 

He said he doesn’t agree with the government’s response to COVID-19 and doesn’t understand why his business should be closed when others such as drive-in restaurants can operate, with restrictions.

“I think the vast majority of people in our state get it and they’re doing the right things,” Gov. Whitmer said during her COVID-19 press conference in Lansing on Friday. “For those who aren’t, you know, we take this serious. This is not a suggestion. These are not thoughts about how you can protect yourself. This is the force of law. And we expect people to follow the law.”

SEE ALSO: Michiganders Might Be Able to Have Small Gatherings Soon

But The Capri opened for the first time Friday, several hours after her remarks.

“It’s our livelihood,” Magocs said about the theater. “It’s the way we make our living.’’

The theater has two screens, and usually plays two movies on each screen, each night. Some moviegoers traveled from neighboring counties to see “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Trolls,” “Jurassic Park’’ and other films.

To prevent the continual spread of the coronavirus, there is extra space between cars and people are allowed to bring food from home for a fee. The snack bar will be open for delivery only, and employees will carry items to customers’ cars while wearing protective equipment. Patrons must remain in their cars.

Magocs said he knows he risks being shut down but that staying closed could present a different, financial risk for the 61-year-old. The drive-in is his family’s only source of income – and the first time it brought in profit this year was Friday night.

Valerie White, Branch County Prosecuting Attorney, said all the police agencies with jurisdiction were aware of the theater’s reopening. 

Branch County Undersheriff Keith Eichler said that the business has been educated and warned about the possible consequences of operating. Police would only respond if they receive a complaint, he said on Friday before the theater opened.

Michigan’s Vocal Minority

Magocs isn’t the only Michigan business owner willing to risk public health for profits. A small section of the state’s licensed beauticians and barbers participated in a protest called ‘Operation Haircut’ on the State Capitol’s lawn on Wednesday.

RELATED: ‘Operation Haircut’: The Defiant Barbers Driving Michigan’s Next Dramatic Protest

But even Michigan lawmakers who say they are willing to risk their health for a seat in a barber’s chair are not ready for the movies yet. 

“I’m ready to go get a haircut,” Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland) told the Atlantic. But he says he’d pass on movie theaters. “I got Netflix and Disney+ and Amazon Prime. I’m good.”

Businesses could face a variety of enforcement actions from police or state agencies including a misdemeanor charge for violating the governor’s order, plus a civil charge with a fine of $1,000.

Magocs said he would fight a ticket in court if he received one.

A Michigan State Police vehicle arrived at the theater to speak with someone at the site shortly before 9 p.m., before the movies began.

“They decided that they were going to open again and that they needed money more than the concern for the health of our community,” said Chris Boger, a concerned citizen who says she called the state, the sheriff, the city, and messaged the Michigan Attorney General’s office to complain about the business. “We have two deaths, keep doing these type events then we go to 100 deaths. Then where are we at because you wanted money?”

Magocs received a $7,500 Paycheck Protection Program loan from the government that he says he plans to spend on bills.

The Capri has been in his family since 1964 when his parents built it. He and his wife, Susan, took over in 1980 and have been running it ever since, he told MLive. The theater was originally scheduled to open on March 20.

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