After being forced to shut their doors across the U.S., Hobby Lobby is slowly reopening select locations amid mass closures with two reported stores resuming business hours for its customers: Illinois and New Mexico. In New Mexico, Hobby Lobby's Roswell location chose to reopen their doors despite an order from the governor, while Illinois also reopened after deeming itself an "essential business." However, the reopenings have sparked controversy, especially since Hobby Lobby is deemed a non-essential establishment and is technically not allowed to have customers inside the building as a way to ensure social distancing guidelines.
Despite the contention over the opening, New Mexico's Chaves County Sheriff Mike Herrington doesn't seem have a problem with Hobby Lobby opening back up, stating how the store is similar to Walmart and Target. "They're equivalent to Walmart, Home Depot, Big Lots, all the other places, Big Lots, Target, that are already open," Herrington told KOB4. "And instead of having all these people have to go to Walmart, or all these people have to go to these other locations, you kind of have to spread 'em out."
He went on to mention that because kids are still required to complete their school work, establishments like Hobby Lobby should be necessary since they carry a lot of supplies that can aid in projects. "Right now, we have kids that are out of school but still required to do schoolwork — homeschooling basically," he said. "Well, Hobby Lobby offers a whole section on nothing but projects and things these kids need to do for the homeschooling side of things, as well as, other things for people to do while they're sitting at home locked down."
The Roswell location's store capacity is fit for 900 people, however, they will only be allowing 75 people in at one time. Hobby Lobby is also ensuring that the store be fitted with adequate markings to help with social distancing — similar to what several other competitors are doing right now. While the Sheriff feels it's an important business, the governor disagrees stating how "public health orders carry the force of law, and are not up for interpretation by county sheriffs." However, Herrington refutes the claim, retorting "that's just crazy" to him.
"I could understand if it was something seriously putting people at risk, but here in Chaves County, that is not the case — unlike Gallup or even in the northern part of the state. We are in a completely different area that is being affected differently by the coronavirus." According to the local news station, other Hobby Lobby's in the state have yet to open. When the pandemic first started around mid-March in the United States, Hobby Lobby refused to close their doors, however, shortly after publicly sharing that they had no plans to do so, they chose to shut down.
As for the Illinois store in Peru, that is the only location in the state that has since reopened after closing nationwide last month. Amid Peru's plans to "Restore Illinois" with the governor, Mayor Scott Harl says the store "informed him they were re-opening as of Monday despite questions about if they’re an essential business," according to LCBC Radio. The mayor was bombarded with "complaint calls" from some who reacted strongly to the reopening. Harl has since been in contact about the reopening with the county health department.