At the start of the week, numerous Hobby Lobby stores were still open in the Denver area, apparently because CEO David Green believed that God wants him to continue selling craft supplies despite his business not being deemed essential under Colorado's stay-at-home order over COVID-19.
But that's all over now. Apparently prompted by publicity over Hobby Lobby's defiance, the Colorado Attorney General's Office has ordered the chain's branches in the state to lock their doors — and Denver is getting more aggressive about shutting down other businesses trying to get around the edict, too.
Hobby Lobby has not yet responded to Westword's inquiry. But Green is a proud Christian who's been described as "the largest evangelical benefactor in the world," thanks to a commitment to donate half of his pretax earnings to such causes. And a March 19 letter attributed to him and circulated on social media suggests that he resisted turning off the lights in Hobby Lobby outlets after his wife, Barbara, received a message from God.
One passage reads: "In her quiet prayer time this past week, the Lord put on Barbara’s heart three profound words to remind us that He’s in control. Guide, Guard, and Groom. We serve a God who will Guide us through this storm, who will Guard us as we travel to places never seen before, and who, as a result of this experience, will Groom us to be better than we could have ever thought possible before now."
Against this backdrop, the Hobby Lobby in Wheat Ridge reopened on Monday, March 30, after being closed for several days. According to a source, one employee was told to report because the store had been deemed an essential business by the state — but a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment spokesperson refuted that claim, and offered ways for folks to contact authorities if they felt retailers were out of compliance with the stay-at-home order.
Plenty reportedly did, and before the end of the day on April 1, a letter was sent to Green bearing the signature of Senior Assistant Attorney General W. Eric Kuhn that included this: "You are directed to immediately close all Hobby Lobby locations within the State of Colorado." Violations of the order are punishable by fines of up to $999 per citation.
At least one Hobby Lobby employee saw something like this coming. While earlier in the week staffers for stores in Wheat Ridge, Lakewood, Englewood, Lone Tree and Aurora gave no indication that closure was imminent, a worker in Westminster said he'd heard about other outlets being shuttered. "We're just waiting for the paperwork," he said.
Meanwhile, Denver delivered cease-and-desist documents of its own to the Hobby Lobby at 920 South Monaco as well as four other businesses, including two Appliance Factory concerns and a GameStop.
City officials appear to have hoped that retailers would decide on their own to stop operating if they didn't fall under one of thirteen categories in this CDPHE public-health report defining critical businesses; those that haven't may soon receive a visit from someone not the least bit interested in shopping.
Click to read the non-compliance letter sent to Hobby Lobby.
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