Officials in several states are forcing Hobby Lobby locations to close after the craft store continued to operate as an "essential business" under stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic. As the number of confirmed cases in the United States continue to increase, officials across the country have continued their efforts to flatten the curve, ordering all non-essential business to close. However, not all business have adhered to those orders.
After Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a two-week stay at home order for the state on March 23 that went into effect on March 25, a Hobby Lobby location in Jeffersonville, Indiana, initially shuttered. However, local station WLKY reported that employees were contacted over the weekend and asked to return on Monday to re-open for business. About an hour after the store opened at 10 a.m., a representative from the Clark County Health Department arrived and ordered the store to close.
Similar stories have been painted at other Hobby Lobby locations in other states, with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporting that authorities in West Allis, Wisconsin, ordered the closure of a Hobby Lobby there after receiving information that the store was open in violation of Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers' safer-at-home order.
"We made contact with the business around 11 a.m. and found that it was open," West Allis Deputy Police Chief Christopher Botsch told the outlet. "We took this as an opportunity to educate the business on the specifics of the governor's order. The business was cooperative and closed without incident."
"We have found that some businesses were confused as to whether or not the order applied to them," he added. "In each case, police were able to resolve the issues through education."
Hobby Lobby stores remaining open despite stay-at-home orders come after Randy Betts, Hobby Lobby's vice president of store operations, in a March 28-dated memo obtained by Business Insider, told managers that stores would be remaining open as they consider them "essential" businesses. In the email, Betts explained that if approached by officials, managers should "identify the specific reason within the emergency order that provides that store permission to be open." Those reasons, the email noted, could include "because we sell educational materials, because we sell products for home based businesses, or because we sell materials to make PPE (personal protective equipment)."
Hobby Lobby, which has begun to close stores in some states and terminate employees, has not responded to the latest developments, which have prompted backlash from customers on social media.