Hobby lobby blown up by Texas officials for ignoring home order

Apr 4, 2020 3:10 AM ET

The hobby lobby is facing a backlash in several states because some of its businesses are open in the midst of the spreading corona virus. A Texas official points out that the craft retailer is at risk of public health.

The controversial stance of the Oklahoma City-based company is considered one of the largest retail chains in the country close temporarily or limit their hours of operation due to the pandemic that killed over 6,500 Americans.

“I just want to make it clear to the hobby lobby and anyone stupid enough to follow in their footsteps that in Dallas County the government and 99.9% of the business community put public health above profit,” ; said Clay Jenkins , Dallas County judge in a press conference on Thursday.

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After praising steps to promote social distancing, Jenkins said, “Someone who is not a hero and I want to call explicitly, and I will call others like this, is the company’s hobby lobby.” The company “takes the position that the rules somehow don’t apply to them,” he added.

After learning that the company had reopened locations in the Dallas metropolitan area, Jenkins asked his employees to prepare an injunction and speak to other US jurisdictions about the company’s decision to keep some businesses open.

“Within minutes of asking if someone has a good injunction, we have a problem with the hobby lobby. People have sent injunctions from the hobby lobby from elsewhere,” said the judge. “So I realize that this is a bigger problem than just Dallas.”

In Texas, where 108 hobby lobbies have opened since last month, the retailer continued to greet customers in its stores on Thursday, although governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texans to stay at home on Tuesday. Calls to two stores in Houston revealed that they were open as usual, another in Garland, a suburb of Dallas, also open.

However, this changed on Thursday evening when a hobby lobby in Dallas was abruptly closed by county sheriff’s deputies after Jenkins called the retailer, CBS Dallas / Fort Worth reports. According to Andrea Freidberg, who has worked at the site for three years, other hobby lobby stores in the Greater Dallas area have been closed, including one in Garland, where workers have been told that their shop will be closed by April 30 or until further notice would.

The hobby lobby has not responded to multiple requests for comments.

The company initially complied with the mandates in most states that required all nonessential companies to close, but then decided that it should serve critical needs and should be reopened. On Saturday, employees were told to return to stores that were temporarily closed, including those in Texas, Colorado, Ohio and Michigan.

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Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost went on social media Wednesday to find that the Hobby Lobby “had closed its shops properly while ordering at home in Ohio. Now they’re open again – what’s changed? Neither Ordering the severity of the health threat, sure. ”

Within an hour of receiving his injunction, the general counsel from Hobby Lobby called and announced that the company would close its business in the state on Wednesday evening, Yost said in a follow-up tweet.

The Hobby Lobby operates more than 900 stores across the country, including 37 stores in Ohio, where an opening in Sandusky was announced a few weeks ago. The phone number for the Sandusky store was disconnected as of Thursday.

The retail chain’s decision to reopen was well received in Colorado, where there are 21 hobby lobby locations. In his letter of omission, W. Eric Kuhn, the assistant attorney general, stated that the Hobby Lobby had reopened its state stores this week and had violated an order by Governor Jared Polis on March 25 to tell Coloradans to be at home stay and order all non-critical companies to close.

“To avoid doubt, the hobby lobby is not a ‘critical business’,” Kuhn wrote in the letter published by the local media.

The Colorado Attorney General’s Office, Phil Weiser, sent a warning letter to the Hobby Lobby on behalf of the State Department of Health on Wednesday. The company agreed to close its state stores on Thursday, a Weiser spokesman said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.

The Hobby Lobby stores were also open in Tennessee on Thursday, although Governor Bill Lee gave a home stay mandate on Thursday, a move that was “safer at home” after previous orders from Nashville, Memphis, and other state cities. took place.

The same goes for branches in Indiana, a state where an order to stay at home expires on Monday evening, but is likely to be renewed. The person who answered the phone in a hobby lobby in Merrillville, Indiana said the store was open but only allowed 10 people in at a time.

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