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Hobby Lobby Defies Closure Orders In Some States, Gets Closed By Cops

Hobby Lobby has reportedly reopened some of its stores in states that have closed nonessential business, including in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and Colorado. In some cases, stores were reopened as little as a week after stay-at-home orders came into effect.

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The retailer argues that it counts as an essential business because it sells certain supplies. The company sent a memo to managers in states under lockdown detailing the case that its stores are essential. Business Insider obtained and published the memo.

"You and the DM must identify the specific reason within the emergency order that provides that store permission to be open," the memo said. "The reasons could be: because we sell educational materials, because we sell products for home based businesses, or because we sell materials to make PPE [personal protective equipment]." 

Each state has its own idea of which businesses should be allowed to be open during a stay-at-home order, sometimes publishing lists of the kinds of retail that may be open, or the kinds of goods that are essential. 

Ohio, for example, cites grocery stores, gas station and pharmacies as essential, though it notes that essential services aren't limited to those. Wisconsin's stay-at-home order specifies grocery stories, gas stations, banks, hardware stores and places that sell supplies that people need to work from home. Neither state specifically mentions craft stores either as essential or nonessential.

In some instances, local authorities have pushed back against Hobby Lobby's argument that it is essential. Near Milwaukee, police and public health officials closed down two reopened stores, and a store in Jefferson, Indiana, was likewise forced to close after reopening.

"We made contact with the business around 11 a.m. [Monday] and found that it was open," West Allis, Wisconsin, Deputy Police Chief Christopher Botsch told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We took this as an opportunity to educate the business on the specifics of the governor’s order."

Oklahoma City-based Hobby Lobby operates about 900 stores nationwide. The company hasn't responded to a request for comment from Bisnow.

Before the pandemic, the craft retailer had been expanding rapidly, with recent grand openings in Sandusky, Ohio; North Riverside, Illinois; Houston; and Waterville, Maine.

Hobby Lobby held a grand opening ceremony March 19 for a new store in North Riverside. That was two days ahead of Illinois' stay-at-home order. On the next day, the company opened its Sandusky store, two days ahead of Ohio's stay-at-home order.

Phone calls made by Bisnow to the North Riverside store went unanswered, while the number for the Sandusky store was reported out of service.