Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he spent part of Friday morning personally calling furniture stores that have reportedly been open in violation of the city’s two-week shutdown order, warning them that they need to shut down or face consequences.
Other types of businesses not deemed essential under the stay-at-home, work-from-home order that went into effect Thursday may also want to think twice.
“I’m going to make it a personal goal of mine to call businesses when I hear they’re open, to talk to them,” Caldwell said on the Honolulu Star- Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii Facebook livestream.
“And if they don’t shut down, police officers will show up at their doors and warn them if they don’t shut down, they’ll be cited and they can go to court and explain to the judge why they refuse to keep the people of Hawaii safe,” he said.
After hearing complaints that several mainland-based furniture stores are continuing to open for retail business despite the lockdown order, Caldwell said he personally called them for confirmation. When store representatives told him they were open because they’re essential businesses, he warned them that continuing operations would lead to a visit from police.
“Many, many reputable businesses are following the stay-at-home, work-from-home order if they’re not essential,” Caldwell said. “Companies like C.S. Wo, Inspiration have closed their doors to the public to help control the spread of this virus. And then we do have irresponsible businesses … many of them they’re not local businesses, they have branches here, but they’re run by corporations outside the state of Hawaii, and they don’t seem to care,” Caldwell said.
While his company was hailed as one of those furniture companies that have been adhering to the order, Inspiration owner Thomas Sorensen told the Star- Advertiser he’s not happy with the situation.
Because those who own businesses like his are told to work from home, Sorensen said, Inspiration has been making sales through the Internet. However, his warehouse and delivery employees were warned by Honolulu police officers on Friday morning that they were not allowed to make any deliveries because they are not an essential business.
“We just got two full containers of home office furnishings to help on COVID and (we) have enough stock for accommodating home office people,” Sorensen said. The order, as he interprets it, allows for companies to make deliveries.
“If I order a desk from Amazon, that’s going to be delivered to my home,” Sorensen said. “If somebody orders a desk from Inspiration online, the police are now saying we cannot deliver it … there’s something completely wrong with this picture.”
Sorensen said his company and other local firms that sell furniture should be allowed to do so.
“These are essential goods and people need them,” he said. Big box stores like Costco, Target and hardware stores are allowed to stay open and can deliver items including furniture.
Sorensen said Caldwell should at least allow what’s sold online to be delivered. Otherwise, he said, Caldwell should order big box outlets to rope off their furniture sections. “It is undue competition, we are local people … they’re just pissing on us.”
Caldwell spokesman Alexander Zannes said the sale of furniture is not considered an essential business
“The exemption for businesses that provide mailing, shipping and delivery services does not make an otherwise nonessential business essential just because they deliver,” he said. “That section applies to businesses primarily engaged in providing delivery services.”
Items intended to aid the technical aspect of working from home are essential, he said. Computers, modems, printers, cameras and microphones are among the items that would fall under that category, he said, but office furniture does not.
A business “must be primarily engaged in the sales or services considered ‘essential’ under the order,” Zannes said. “Neither office furniture nor general furniture stores primarily provide products ‘needed’ for people to work from home under the order,’” he said.
On Friday, the city issued on its COVID-19 web site a two-page guidance bulletin designed to summarize the 16-page stay-at-home, work-from-home order.