Hobby Lobby locations across Ohio have agreed to close after initially reopening following Gov. Mike DeWine’s shelter-in-place order. The decision to shutter businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic came after State Attorney General Dave Yost confirmed Wednesday that his office had sent the company a cease and desist letter.
I received a phone call within the hour from the general counsel of Hobby Lobby, informing us they were closing their stores tonight in Ohio in compliance with our cease-and-desist letter. https://t.co/PLf9iIA8pH— Dave Yost (@Yost4Ohio) April 1, 2020
In a letter to Hobby Lobby General Counsel Peter Dobelbower, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Fulkerson countered the craft store’s stance that it is an essential business, noting that the Ohio Department of Health's order provides guidance on what businesses are “essential” and can remain open. Those essential businesses include grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies a few others, according to Cleveland.com.
"It does not appear that Hobby Lobby meets the criteria outlined in the Director’s order," Fulkerson wrote.
After initially closing stores following the shelter-in-place order, Hobby Lobby had reopened all of its 19 Ohio locations, as well as several others across the country. The move followed a memo from Hobby Lobby's vice president of store operations, Randy Betts, which explained that the company was "going to make every effort to continue working the employees."
In a subsequent memo, Betts laid out guidelines for what manages should do if approached by local officials questioning their validity as an "essential business." According to Betts, managers would have to "identify the specific reason within the emergency order that provides that store permission to be open," with reasons including "because we sell educational materials, because we sell products for home based businesses, or because we sell materials to make PPE (personal protective equipment.)"
The decision to reopen stores not only sparked backlash from those on social media, but also employees, with one Ohio employee, who spoke out under the condition of anonymity, stating that stores did not have the proper supplies to sanitize and disinfect.
"Management is being so secretive and won't be open with what's going on," the employee said. "We also don't have the employees to do the extensive cleaning that they say we are doing on the website because payroll keeps telling management to cut hours. I'm just very anxious about this whole thing and don't understand why no one is helping us employees out with this situation."
Hobby Lobby locations in Ohio are not the only ones to have reopened, as there have been reports of locations in Wisconsin, Indiana, North Carolina, and more who have kept their doors open. In some of those states, officials have forced the stores to close.