Hobby Lobby has reopened or refused to close stores around the country in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a report by Business Insider, nearly all of the craft store's locations in Ohio and Wisconsin have stayed open. The outlet even obtained an internal memo instructing store managers on "how to respond and communicate if visited by a local authority that asks why we are open."
Hobby Lobby has sparked an uproar in recent weeks by refusing to close its doors or attempting to reopen them in spite of the coronavirus pandemic. The company has laid off many employees, all the while defining itself as an "essential business" and trying to stay open throughout this crisis. Hobby Lobby employees spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity, saying that they were receiving contradictory instructions from their company which clashed with their state's response, in many cases. They also felt that they might lose their jobs if they did not comply with Hobby Lobby.
While 32 states have now enacted some kind of shelter-in-place order to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Hobby Lobby stores around the country have done their best to remain open. That includes locations in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, North Carolina, Colorado and other places.
While they may be open, employees say these stores are not doing their best work. Hobby Lobby's warehouse in Oklahoma City is closed, meaning that stores cannot restock the craft supplies they are trying to sell. In addition, their slashed staffs make it difficult to undertake any serious cleaning efforts, which are more important than ever through the lifespan of this virus.
Here is a rough tally of the Hobby Lobby locations confirmed to be open during the coronavirus pandemic.
19 Ohio Stores
All 19 Hobby Lobby locations in Ohio were reopened on Monday despite the state's strict shelter-in-place order, according to Business Insider. Reporters called each store individually, confirming that they were open after closing for just one week in compliance with the state's orders.
17 Wiconsin Stores
Meanwhile, 17 out of the 20 stores in Wisconsin were opened as well. One more tried to open on Monday morning as well, but was shut down by police. Even the ones that are closed are listed as "temporarily closed" on Google.
1 Forcibly Shuttered in Wisconsin
One Wisconsin store was forcibly shuttered by police, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Authorities reportedly showed up an hour after the store opened on Monday and made it close down. Employees were told to argue their case with police and attempt to stay open.
1 Forcibly Shuttered in Indiana
A similar case was reported in Jeffersonville, Indiana by local CBS News affiliat WLKY. The Hobby Lobby there opened for one hour before police arrived to shut it down. So far, Hobby Lobby has not responded to requests for comment from news outlets, or addressed these legal entanglements.
One Ohio employee who spoke to Business Insider anonymously noted that he is a military veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. He said that he has called the Ohio Department of Health and the office of Gov. Mike DeWine, but neither call has been answered yet.
"The main thing is they're not really telling us anything," he said. "Last Monday we closed because we were a nonessential business basically, and that was fine with me. Not even four days later, we're reopened because they're saying we're essential now."
"My wife is pretty furious. We're trying to take care of my mother who had knee surgery and also has multiple sclerosis, which is an autoimmune disease. I don't want to bring it home and get her infected," he went on. "I used to love working for this company, but since this pandemic, I've seen how callous and irresponsible it has been."
Ohio Employee (Cont.)
Another Ohio employee sent an email to Business Insider, saying that they were baffled as to why Hobby Lobby wanted to keep its doors open right now at all. With business moving slowly there was little that understaffed stores could do to make the shifts worth their time.
"Management is being so secretive and won't be open with what's going on," they wrote. "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."
An employee in North Carolina said that Hobby Lobby is trying to use the vague definitions of an "essential business" as a loophole to remain open. They argued that there was nothing on sale at the craft store that made it worth the risk of staying open.
"Hobby Lobby is fighting that we are an essential store," they said. "There is absolutely nothing in Hobby Lobby worth spreading this illness. I'm honestly appalled at this company and the way it doesn't care for its employees and only about making their money."
Hobby Lobby stores all around the Denver, Colorado area were open on Monday, despite Gov. Jared Polis' order that non-critical business close through April 11. In a statement given to The Denver Post, Polis' press secretary Conor Cahill said: "They are not exempt."
Managers for those individual stores declined to comment when contacted by the Post. The Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said that his office has received about 700 reports about businesses violating the stay-at-home order. He did not discuss whether he intended to pursue action against those companies.
Finally, an employee at a Hobby Lobby store in an undisclosed midwestern state remarked on the personal turmoil created by their company's decision to stay open. They said that they were afraid of losing their job, but afraid of contributing to the spread of the virus as well.
"This has all been so stressful and exhausting," they said. "I don't want to stay home because I'm too lazy to work. I want to stay home to do my part to stop the spread of the virus."
For the latest on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the CDC's website.