‘This additional strain on our already stressed law enforcement resources from a non-essential business seems out of order at this critical time…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) Hobby Lobby planned to reopen its Salisbury, North Carolina location on Monday after receiving the green light from the state government.
But Rowan County, the county in which the store is located, refused to grant Hobby Lobby permission to reopen and warned that local law enforcement would take action if necessary.
The North Carolina Department of Revenue told Hobby Lobby that its stores could begin to reopen with other businesses as long as the store continued to follow the federal government’s preventative guidelines—which include maintaining six-feet distances in between customers, providing exclusive hours for senior citizens, and limiting the number of customers in the store at a time—according to Alicia Crawford Wiley, the associate general counsel for Hobby Lobby.
When Hobby Lobby made Rowan County aware of this approval and its intentions to reopen, county officials dismissed the store’s plan and declared that Hobby Lobby should not reopen because it is not essential.
“Rowan County cannot offer local approval for your plan, but we appreciate you providing the detail,” Rowan County attorney Jay Dees told the store, adding that if Hobby Lobby were to open, the county would be forced to “reallocate deputies or local police officers away from other local needs and begin checking Hobby Lobby for compliance” to social distancing guidelines.
“This additional strain on our already stressed law enforcement resources from a non-essential business seems out of order at this critical time,” Dees continued.
Under North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order mandating business closures, stores that obtain the approval of the North Carolina Department of Revenue are, in fact, allowed to open—regardless of whether the business is considered essential or nonessential.
“A business that has made a request to the Department to be included as a COVID-19 Essential Business or Operation may continue to operate until that request is acted upon,” the executive order states.
Wiley explained to Rowan County officials that Hobby Lobby received approval from the state to reopen because it provides essential goods that must be made available to the public.
“We supply materials to make PPE (we know anecdotally that these materials are becoming more and more scarce), such as fabric and elastic materials, which are very important for healthcare operations,” Wiley explained in an email to the county, according to WBTV.
Still, the county refused to acknowledge Hobby Lobby’s request and responded with a veiled threat.
“We had issues with Hobby Lobby remaining open in multiple counties in North Carolina after the first executive order, and I can only hope that we will not have compliance issues moving forward,” Dees said.
Hobby Lobby does not technically need Rowan County’s permission to reopen since it has already obtained approval from the state—which is something Dees acknowledged: Hobby Lobby “is not an essential business at this time,” he said, but “non-essential business that can strictly maintain the social separation distances prescribed in the Executive Order may operate.”
Even so, the Salisbury location remained closed on Monday, WBTV reported. No one answered the store’s phone, and the doors were locked.