Governor tightens retail restrictions, requires liquor stores to switch to takeout

The stay-at-home extension that Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Monday strengthens the restrictions around how retailers can operate — including a provision that requires liquor stores to only offer curbside pickup.

The new executive order extends the stay-at-home directive through April 20, with many of the same provisions as the initial order, which took effect March 25. But Holcomb’s action on Monday adds new language that further restricts business activity and creates an Enforcement Response Team to ensure businesses are complying.

As of Tuesday, 5,507 people in Indiana have tested positive for COVID-19 and 173 people have died from the disease.

Like the previous order, this one exempts “essential” businesses such as hospitals, doctor’s offices, police stations and fire stations from closures and severe restrictions.

But Monday’s order creates a new category — retailers “providing the necessities of life” — for grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, pharmacies, auto repair shops, pet supply stores, hardware stores, “club” stores such as Sam’s Club or Costco, stores selling farm equipment or office supplies, and building supply stores such as Lowe’s, Menards and Home Depot. They can stay open but the order urges them to restrict the number of customers allowed in the store at any one time, limit their hours of operation and offer special shopping hours for the elderly and other vulnerable populations.

Any “essential” business is also required to comply with the social distancing guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including maintaining a 6-foot distance from others and having all employees wash their hands for at least 20 seconds.

The updated language says retailers that do not sell products considered a “necessity of life” can stay open, but only for online or call-in orders for delivery or curbside pickup. That applies to such places as craft stores, bookstores or florists.

It also applies to liquor stores. The new order does not carve out an exemption specifically related to alcoholic beverage sales as the initial executive order did.

“We understand that converting your business model is hard,” Holcomb said during his daily media briefing on Monday. “But it’s hard to give these daily reports, and it’s hard to realize what’s in store for us over these next two weeks. So drastic times call for drastic measures.”

Holcomb’s new directive suggests that people should only be making in-person purchases of goods and services that are needed for “sustenance, health, education or employment,” and everyone should be using online ordering or calling ahead to order for delivery or curbside pick-up whenever possible.

The measure also encourages individuals to limit the number of household members traveling to stores.

But the administration is not restricting what big retailers such as Meijer, Walmart or Target can sell. So, someone could buy groceries but still purchase items that might not be considered a “necessity of life,” such as board games.

The order also extends the in-person restaurant dining prohibition — which had been set to expire Monday — through April 20. Restaurants can still offer take-out and delivery.

The order requires campgrounds, including those at state parks, to close by Wednesday unless someone is living in an RV as their primary residence. State parks will continue to remain open, though.

Public and private social gatherings continue to be limited to no more than 10 people.

To help enforce the regulations, Holcomb has created a new Enforcement Response Team led by the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to respond to complaints about businesses violating the order. The new team won’t begin enforcing the order until 24 hours after it takes effect, giving retailers, campgrounds and other establishments time to comply.

Any businesses not complying with the order will first be issued a verbal warning, then the Indiana State Department of Health will issue an order to cease the unsafe practice. If the business continues to be in violation, the health department will issue an order to close the business. If that occurs, the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office would be notified to suspend any relevant licenses and the issue would be sent to the local prosecutor for consideration.

Violating the executive order can be considered a class B misdemeanor and carry a penalty of up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.

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