Hobby Lobby closes after defying coronavirus-prompted orders

Retailer is not classified as an 'essential business'

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Devout Christian-run retailer Hobby Lobby has come under fire in at least two states for keeping a number of their stores open despite new coronavirus-related orders that non-essential businesses temporarily close.

Officials in Ohio and Colorado took action against the company shortly after a report revealed Hobby Lobby had re-opened some locations – and had provided store managers with a guide for what to do "if visited by an authority."

Hobby Lobby (iStock); David Green, inset (Getty Images)

"In stores that are open, and there is an emergency order issued where that store is located, the [district manager] needs to guide store management in how to respond and communicate if they are visited by a local authority that asks why we are open," states the March 28 memo from Hobby Lobby's vice president of store operations Randy Betts.

A Hobby Lobby spokesperson did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.

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Ohio Attorney General David Yost announced in a tweet on Wednesday he had sent the retailer a cease-and-desist letter.

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"Hobby Lobby properly closed its stores during Ohio's stay-home order. Now they're open again — what's changed?" he wrote. "Neither the order, nor the seriousness of the health threat, for sure."

The company's stores closed shortly thereafter, Yost said in a subsequent tweet.

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As of noon Thursday, there were at least 217,263 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. At least 2,547cases and 65 deaths had been reported in Ohio, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Medicine.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, there were at least 3,342 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 79 deaths.

On Wednesday, W. Eric Kahn, Senior Assistant Attorney General for Colorado sent a letter to Hobby Lobby founder and CEO David Green and other company executives ordering them to close all locations in the state.

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"It has come to the attention of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) that Hobby Lobby has reopened its Colorado stores this week," the letter states. “As it applies to you, the public health order permits continued operation of only 'critical retail' ... For any avoidance of doubt, and as you have been previously notified, Hobby Lobby is not a 'critical business' and is not otherwise exempt."

On March 19, Green sent employees a letter saying that company leaders were working to "balance the needs to keep the Company strong and the needs of employees," according to the Daily Mail.

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