McMaster orders ‘non-essential’ businesses closed
By Bobby Bryant
Darlington County residents will be saying goodbye to nightclubs, Bingo halls, commercial gyms, spas, swimming pools, barber shops, hair salons, tanning salons and tattoo parlors for a while under a new order from S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster.
McMaster, in another executive order intended to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, on March 31 ordered the closing of all “non-essential businesses” throughout South Carolina for at least two weeks.
The order exempts grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks and large-scale retailers like Wal-Mart (a mainstay among Darlington retailers).
It’s one of several orders McMaster has issued in the past few weeks as the coronavirus threat has grown; other orders have closed all S.C. schools, closed all S.C. restaurants to dine-in customers and banned gatherings of more than three people.
“We must do everything we can to stop the spread, be as aggressive as we can be, using the facts, but at the same time, not going too far, destroying business and jobs that people are depending on,” McMaster said last week.
The governor’s latest order specifically targets nightclubs, bowling alleys, arcades, concert venues, theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers, tourist attractions like museums, racetracks, indoor children’s play areas (excluding daycare facilities), Bingo halls, venues operated by social clubs, fitness and exercise centers and commercial gyms, spas, swimming pools, group exercise facilities (including yoga, barre and spin studios), spectator sports, activities on playground equipment, barber shops, hair salons, waxing salons, nail salons, tattoo services, tanning salons and massage-therapy establishments.
Later, McMaster expanded the list to include furniture stores, clothing stores, jewelry stores, florists, bookstores and sporting-goods stores.
McMaster’s order will hit Darlington Mayor Curtis Boyd, who owns a chain of Fitness World gyms in the Pee Dee region.
“This is a trying time for us all,” Boyd wrote on Facebook. “ … We will work to address improvements at all of our gyms so that when we are blessed with the opportunity to reopen, your gyms will be better than ever.”
Newspapers, such as this one, apparently were not mentioned on either McMaster’s list of banned or exempted businesses.
Bill Rogers, director of the S.C. Press Association, sent out e-mails to newspapers saying: “Our communication with the governor’s office leads us to believe that he will not expand upon the current order to close down all non-essential businesses, and if he did, newspapers would be declared an essential business.”
If you’re uncertain whether your business is “essential” or “non-essential,” go to the S.C. Department of Commerce’s website and complete the Essential Business Clarification form. Questions can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org; business representatives can call 803-734-2873.
Harriet Hobbs, president of the Greater Darlington Chamber of Commerce, urges area business owners to examine the forms and information she has compiled on the chamber’s Facebook page.
If employees displaced because of the coronavirus pandemic are filing for unemployment benefits, she said, they should be certain to file under a special COVID-19 provision that will boost their benefits perhaps even higher than their regular salaries.
There’s only one more major step the governor could take in restricting the public’s movements to slow the virus’ spread: He could order all S.C. residents to stay at home except for essential travel, such as to buy groceries or pick up prescription medications. Most states have done this.
So far, he has not found it necessary to order “sheltering in place.”