Rowan County, Hobby Lobby at odds on store’s potential reopening

There are questions about a plan by Hobby Lobby to reopen the Salisbury store.
There are questions about a plan by Hobby Lobby to reopen the Salisbury store.(David Whisenant | WBTV)
Updated: Apr. 27, 2020 at 10:35 AM EDT
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SALISBURY, N.C. (WBTV) - Hobby Lobby and Rowan County are at odds over the potential reopening of the retail store, despite the Stay at Home order.

In an email, Hobby Lobby announced its intention to reopen the Salisbury location on Monday.

“We submitted a request with the North Carolina Department of Revenue a couple of weeks ago, and in response they sent us a letter stating that we could operate our store under Governor Cooper’s Executive Order No. 121 and in accordance with the updated social distancing requirements in Executive Order No. 131.” wrote Alicia Crawford Wiley in an email to Rowan County Manager Aaron Church. Wiley is listed as the associate general counsel for Hobby Lobby.

The email included a list of measures taken to combat the spread of COVID-19, including:

  • Maintaining at least six-foot distancing from other individuals and posting signs regarding same in areas where individuals may congregate
  • Exclusive operating hours (9AM-10AM) for our customers who are age 60 and older or who are at risk
  • Limiting the number of customers in the store at any given time, in accordance with the “emergency maximum occupancy” section under Governor Cooper’s Executive Order No. 131
  • Restricting the use of registers in order to maximize the amount of space between individuals
  • Using blue tape to ensure six-foot spacing between individuals at registers and counters
  • Placing barriers between cashiers and customers
  • Limiting the number of employees in any given room or sales area at any given time
  • Providing sanitizing products for employee and customer use
  • Requiring employees to wear masks or cloth face coverings
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting schedules, including the regular cleaning and disinfecting of commonly used areas and surfaces, including restrooms, door handles, breakrooms, pin pads, keypads, fabric and checkout counters (these surfaces are made with nano-technology that help block and reduce germs), keyboards, registers, shopping carts, desks, and timeclocks

In a second email, Wiley wrote why she considered Hobby Lobby to be essential:

“ is our opinion that we are an essential business and operation under NC’s order, given that we supply materials to make PPE (we know anecdotally that these materials are becoming more and more scarce), such as fabric and elastic materials, which are very important for healthcare operations, and we also provide educational and office supplies which are necessary given school closures and since many people must now work from home,” Wiley wrote.

In a response, Rowan County attorney Jay Dees noted that Hobby Lobby was not considered an essential business.

“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.”

“We want all of our local businesses to survive and ultimately thrive as the executive orders allow more complete openings. We just hope that by complying with these orders now, that date may be much sooner than if businesses push to open too quickly and do not comply,” Dees added.

On Monday morning after 10:00 WBTV made several calls to Hobby Lobby in Salisbury, but no one answered the phone. We also stopped by the store to see if they were open. The lights were on, but the doors were locked.

On Monday morning, the lights were on at the Hobby Lobby in Salisbury, but the doors were still...
On Monday morning, the lights were on at the Hobby Lobby in Salisbury, but the doors were still closed.(David Whisenant | WBTV)

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