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Coronavirus In Ohio: Hobby Lobby To Reclose Stores After Cease-And-Desist Letter

Sign in the window of the Hobby Lobby at Polaris.
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Sign in the window of the Hobby Lobby at Polaris.

Hobby Lobby reclosed all of its Ohio stores Wednesday night after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from the Ohio Attorney General.

Attorney General Dave Yost said on Twitter that Hobby Lobby's general counsel informed him the stores would close to comply with the state’s stay-at-home order.

After originally closing its doors due to Ohio's ban on non-essential businesses, the arts-and-crafts retailer reopened stores here and other states on Monday.

That included five Hobby Lobby locations in Central Ohio, which began operating under normal business hours. At the Polaris location, the store hung a sign declaring "Operating as an Essential Businesses," and saying that they sell medical and educational supplies.

Yost disagreed that they qualified as an essential business.

"What's changed? Neither the order, nor the seriousness of the health threat, for sure," Yost wrote on Twitter.

Yost also says he's sent letters to JoAnn's and Michaels, asking them to justify why they are operating as an essential business.

"Just because a bowling alley sells bottled water doesn't make them an essential enterprise," Yost says. "You've got to look at what the core business is and you've also got to weigh it against the risk exposure to the general population."

At his coronavirus briefing Wednesday, Gov. Mike DeWine says local municipalities are taking action to enforce the state's March 22 order shutting down all "non-essential businesses and operations."

“I know one mayor sent out 250 letters several days ago to companies that were in violation, so they have every ability to shut them down,” DeWine says. “This will be done in conjunction with the local health department. Many of the cities have health departments.”

In addition to Ohio, Hobby Lobby also moved to reopen dozens of stores in Wisconsin, which has its own shelter-in-place order. In Milwaukee, several of the arts-and-crafts stores were shut down by police after they briefly opened Monday.

One Central Ohio store worker that WOSU spoke to on the phone said that their location was closed last week, and he doesn't know why it opened this week.

DeWine said he will issue another order Thursday to back up the non-essential business closures.

“These laws need to be enforced. The order is there,” DeWine says. “We will be issuing another order tomorrow, and we’ll talk about that tomorrow. But the enforcement is very, very important.”

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted has said businesses that believe they qualify should be prepared to explain to employees and local officials, and that health departments would penalize violators.

Ohio's order defines what businesses were considered "essential," including: grocery stores, pharmacies, food supply companies, media organizations, gas stations and transportation services, banks, hardware and supply stores, laundry services, professional services like law firms and real estate companies, hotels and motels, and delivery and take-out restaurants.

Hobby Lobby store managers and corporate officials declined comment. 

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.