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Inslee decries Spokane businesses violating order

Hobby Lobby customers visit the store on North Division Street in Spokane, Friday, May 15, 2020. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
By Jim Camden and Thomas Clouse The Spokesman-Review

Despite tough talk from Gov. Jay Inslee, some Spokane-area businesses have opened despite not appearing to fit the definition of essential businesses under state COVID-19 restrictions.

JOANN Fabric and Crafts indicated online it is open for curbside business. But the stores were bustling with in-store shoppers Tuesday at the retailer’s store at 1840 W. Francis Ave.

On the door, the business posted a message explaining why it had opened, which it said mostly was to provide materials needed to make homemade personal protective equipment.

“The safety of our team members, customers, and community is our top priority,” the posted statement read in part. “That is why JOANN is staying open during this difficult time so that we can satisfy the needs of our customers forced to work from home.”

Despite the claims for following coronavirus safety guidelines, several employees were seen working without masks as they checked out customers or helped them find items.

An assistant manager directed a reporter’s questions to JOANN’s corporate office in Ohio, which did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Last week, Hobby Lobby stores opened after its corporate lawyers reached out to the Spokane City Attorney’s Office. The stores remained open Tuesday, with employees all wearing masks. The Spokane Valley store had protective barriers to separate cashiers from customers.

In addition to the craft stores, three Spokane Valley bars have opened prior to easing of state restrictions.

At a news conference Tuesday to announce new criteria that must be met by Spokane and nine other counties in order to reopen more of their economy, Inslee said bars moving ahead of the restrictions by reopening early and serving customers was not acceptable.

“Those bars need to be in compliance with the order,” he said. “We’re going to have more things to say in the upcoming days from the attorney general about the need for people to comply.”

The need for compliance and personal responsibility will increase as the state loosens requirements on the economy, Inslee said. Businesses will need to take steps to keep customers and employees safe, he said.

“If there are people who are showing a blatant disrespect for that, that needs to change. The public needs to let them know about it, and local officials need to let them know about it, too, and take some action,” Inslee said.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Tuesday morning the state had filed lawsuits against gyms in Pierce and Snohomish counties that had reopened in violation of the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order and refused to close after repeated contacts from the state.

“There’s just no reason why certain people would think they’re kind of special, and they have certain rights that other citizens do not,” Inslee said. “They think they’re above the law, apparently.”

The businesses are violating the law and endangering not just their patrons but the families and others those patrons come into contact with after they leave, Inslee said.

The vast majority of business people are complying with orders and making tough decisions because they’re being responsible, he said.

“For some irresponsible business leaders to besmirch the ones that are responsible, that just will not stand,” he added.