SALISBURY – While thousands of businesses have applied to be labeled ‘essential’ by the N.C. Department of Revenue, so they can open for business under the statewide Stay-at-Home order, many have been denied. Some small-business owners may stealthily open up anyway, but what happens when a relatively big business gets the green light from the State, but the municipality has a different idea?
That’s what has happened in Rowan County, where Hobby Lobby applied for permission to open up as long as they follow social distancing guidelines. (Before going any further; how absurd is it that begging Cooper’s executive branch for permission is necessary?)
The store was not granted an ‘essential’ label, though their argument is as good as many others, but the governor’s orders specifically allow non-essential businesses to operate if they can follow strict social distancing guidelines. Rowan County officials noted this, but erred on the side of fear and control when county attorney Jay Dees told Hobby Lobby the county could not approve their plan.
“[…] “I appreciate that Hobby Lobby has its own opinion of whether the business is essential, however, the State of North Carolina has issued its opinion that Hobby Lobby is not an essential business at this time,” Dees wrote. “With that said, non-essential business that can strictly maintain the social separation distances prescribed in the Executive Order may operate.”
“Rowan County cannot offer local approval for your plan, but we appreciate you providing the detail. The real impact of decisions by non-essential businesses to open for full public access is that Rowan County will now have to reallocate deputies or local police officers away from other local needs and begin checking Hobby Lobby for compliance. This additional strain on our already stressed law enforcement resources from a non-essential business seems out of order at this critical time.“
“We fully understand the negative economic and financial impacts that business closures have caused across all industries. However, our primary goal is the health, safety and welfare of your employees and all Rowan County citizens and others who visit and shop in our county. 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.” […]”\
This attorney essentially said, ‘Yes you are allowed to open under certain rules, but since it takes effort and resources for us to enforce all those rules, your approval is denied.’ This is a glaring example of the selective adherence to local and state shutdown orders. Hobby Lobby is literally allowed to open, just like any other business, if they follow certain rules. Yet, the county finds it too taxing to enforce the onerous rules, so they opt to just deny the business altogether.
Moreover, Dees closes with passive aggressive remark about hoping there are not “compliance issues moving forward.” WBTV checked, and the store is closed, but here’s to hoping they go ahead an open, as the rules allow.
Read more about the county attorney’s power trip here.