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Liquor stores? Gun shops? Here are the essential businesses that can stay open in RI

Coronavirus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Gun shops and liquor stores are now essential, but no more bookstores allowed in Rhode Island.

Gov. Gina Raimondo on Saturday issued several new measures related to the ongoing response to COVID-19 pandemic, including a new ban on the operation of all non-critical and non-essential retail businesses.

The list of non-essential businesses includes many that people might expect, such as sporting-goods stores, furniture shops and consignment boutiques.

There are many others now forced to shutter that would have likely lost many of their customers anyway, given the governor’s simultaneous “stay-at-home” order requiring all Rhode Islanders to only leave their houses for essential reasons, such as buying food and medicine.

For those reasons, the list of essential and critical businesses includes many operations people might expect, including supermarkets, pharmacies, and gas stations.

But there are others on both lists that might surprise people — gun shops are essential, while arts and crafts stores are non-essential — raising questions about what message state leaders might be sending the Rhode Island consumer.

“We’re doing our very best to make sound judgments,” said Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor, who added that many in both the “essential” and “non-essential” categories could be debated.

Critical retail businesses that can continue to operate as of Monday include:

  • Food and beverage stores (e.g. supermarkets, liquor, specialty food, and convenience stores, farmers’ markets, food banks and pantries)
  • Pharmacies and medical supply stores
  • Compassion centers
  • Pet supply stores
  • Printing shops
  • Mail and delivery stores and operations
  • Gas stations
  • Laundromats
  • Electronics and telecommunications stores
  • Office supply
  • Industrial and agricultural/seafood equipment supply stores
  • Hardware stores
  • Funeral homes
  • Auto repair and supply
  • Banks and credit unions
  • Firearms stores
  • Healthcare and public safety professional uniform stores

Non-critical retail businesses that must close include:

Arts & crafts stores

  • Florists
  • Furniture stores (by appointment only)
  • Car and other motor vehicle dealerships (except for auto repair and by appointment only)
  • Music stores
  • Billiard stores
  • Sporting goods stores
  • Home furnishings stores
  • Lawn/garden supply stores (note that agricultural/seafood supply would be allowed to be
    open)
  • Book stores
  • Departments stores
  • Gift stores
  • Beauty supply stores
  • Second-hand/consignment stores
  • Shoe stores
  • Clothing stores
  • Jewelry stores

Restaurants are permitted to continue offering only pickup, drive-through and delivery as the governor has previously ordered.

The R.I. Department of Business Regulation will post details about which businesses are considered essential on its website at www.dbr.ri.gov. The agency also has the authority to add and remove businesses from each group, according to Raimondo’s order.

Retailers are also under orders from the department to limit the number of people who can be in the store at any one time and to do more thorough and frequent cleaning.

While business-to-consumer stores must largely close, Raimondo has decided so far that business-to-business stores will remain open, including manufacturers and other businesses that are providing products to other businesses.

Lawn and gardening supply stores for consumers must close, by example, but if those stores are providing material to agricultural businesses, they may remain open, Pryor explained.

The decision comes as the Raimondo administration is trying to balance its efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, which has killed two Rhode Islanders so far, and also keep some parts of the economy open so owners can stay afloat and people can stay employed.

“Rhode Island is attempting to be the most disciplined and thoughtful state among all the states in undertaking these policies and implementing them,” Pryor said.

Eli Sherman (esherman@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for WPRI 12. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Steph Machado and Ted Nesi contributed to this report.

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