'Non-essential' businesses selling essential items in attempt to stay open

Posted at 11:44 AM, Mar 27, 2020

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. -- It's an unprecedented move in uncharted times: big chains like Target and Walmart are seeing non-essential aisles roped off in Summit County, Colorado.

"Any store that sells both essential items and non essential items, in the definitions we have both at our local and state public health orders, they need to close them off, those non-essential items," said Julie Sutor, director of communications for Summit County.

Customers are unable to purchase items like clothing, video games, or toys in those stores.

"The only reason we want people to go out and be in a commercial establishment are for those essential activities. So, they’re buying groceries because I need to cook food. For those non-essential items we don’t want to create incentives for people to be going out circulating, interacting with one another," said Sutor.

In Denver, Bighorn Firearms plans to continue business as usual despite being called "non-essential" under Denver’s order and losing a temporary restraining order in court Thursday that would have allowed the store to stay open.

Bighorn's attorney, Ian Hicks, said they believe the gun shop should be allowed to stay open because they sell essential items like medical supplies and flashlights, which was part of the argument in the court proceedings.

"What’s key is the city admitted and argued that if you sell essential goods and non-essential goods together, meaning if you’re a non-essential store and you sell any amount of essential goods, you can operate under this public health order," Hicks said.

A spokesperson for the city tells KMGH, "Enforcement officials are performing investigations on a complaint basis as well as proactively."

At The Container Store in Cherry Creek, the doors were still opening to customers. On the door, a signs read the business is following CDC guidance. One of its employees told KMGH off-camera the company told it's workers they can stay open because they sell cleaning products, an essential item.

The Denver Attorney's Office said they gave more than a dozen written orders to businesses to close Thursday, including a tattoo shop claiming to be essential because they sell medical equipment. A spokesperson for the city attorney's office said they are not aware of any businesses being fined.

The Container Store did not responded to KMGH's request for comment.

This story was originally published by Gary Brode at KMGH.