Local Businesses Respond To Stay At Home Orders

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Mar 30, 2020
Atlantic Marine will shut its doors to the public at its four Wilmington-area locations at the close of business Monday, complying with recent orders issued by the state and local governments to fight the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We were leaning toward taking this action ourselves even before the governor issued his order ... We believe that’s the safest thing for us to do as an employer and for our customers,” said Jordan Davis, business manager at Atlantic Marine.

The company is planning to keep all 50 of its current staff members while it's closed, he said. 

Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday issued a stay-at-home order that begins at 5 p.m. Monday and lasts until April 29. The executive order directs people to stay at home except to visit essential businesses, to exercise outdoors or to help a family member. It also bans gatherings of more than 10 people.

In additional restrictions by New Hanover County, marine sales centers were among nonessential businesses. Those businesses and other guidelines were issued in the county's new orders adopted Saturday.

It forces all such nonessential merchants and retailers to close shopping areas to the public.

Atlantic Marine at noon Monday already closed its dry storage at its facility in Wrightsville Beach, 101 Keel St., and stopped launching boats, Davis said. Its showroom and service centers will close in line with the governor's order on Monday, Davis said.

Customers, however, can still shop inventory online, fill out a credit application or boat service request, and place a deposit on a boat on its website, he said.

“Our sales team will continue to be available. You can do business through our website. Our sales staff can do business from home as well,” Davis said. 

The company has also designated a place on its website for updates on business operations in response to the coronavirus.  

“We’re looking forward to getting back in business, Davis said. "It’s going to be a good summer. We just got to get through this hurdle first."

There has been some confusion, however, regarding details of the restrictions for businesses.

“We hear and understand from the public that there is confusion about what business is deemed 'essential' or 'non-essential' from the Governor’s order, and what that means for employees and residents with the further restrictions outlined by the county. It’s easy in a hurricane to close businesses for the safety of the employees and the public, but navigating this situation is very different from natural disasters," Chris Coudriet, county manager, said in an email.

"What we can offer in guidance is that essential businesses offer supports to our residents, healthcare workers, first responders, and emergency responders through health services, providing sustenance, shelter, mobility, hygiene, and important infrastructure supply chains in response to COVID-19 efforts," he said. "The social distancing practices and ban on gatherings of 10 or more from the Order must also be placed as a priority for these businesses to further protect and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The order does not prevent e-commerce from taking place, as long as business operations continue within social distancing guidelines. The shipment of goods can continue, as well as curbside service, according to the county's FAQs page on the subject

The county is urging area residents to stay at home as a means to stop the spread of the virus, said New Hanover County commissioners chair Julia Olson-Boseman during an address Monday afternoon on Facebook.

“All in-person shopping except for those essential stores needs to end,” she said.

In accordance with the order issued by the governor, Mayfaire will close on Monday at 5 p.m. until further notice, stated a notice on the shopping center's website.

"We will provide additional information as it becomes available. Businesses and retailers that are deemed essential under the order, as well as restaurants may remain open," states the notice.

Area law enforcement will be enforcing the county restrictions, which are implemented over the next 14 days starting at 5 p.m. Monday, Olson-Boseman said. Additional documentation, however, is not required to go to work.

The additional restrictions were added to the county's state of emergency, which was declared March 20 and signed by the county's board chair, Lauren McConville, communications and outreach coordinator, said in an email.

"This authority rests with the chair of the county commission, under the county’s Emergency Operations Plan, and does not require a vote of the board. However, the board was informed and aware at each step. The chair also coordinated both the State of Emergency and the additional restrictions with the mayors of each of the municipalities and received their approval and consent for both," McConville said.

The county ordered also issues establishments such as hotels and motels to close, unless providing service to essential business workers.  

The county's orders "are creating some frustration and confusion for a lot of our members and business in our community,” said Natalie English, president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, of the new orders during a BizTalk on Monday.

Businesses, she said, should find ways to adapt, including online sales, under the new orders and practice social distancing. Motels and hotels in the community could help support essential employees, such as those in health care or construction, English said.  

But for some businesses, it's just not possible to remain open, she added.

“It’s hard. And it’s going to be a challenge to help them get back on their feet as we pull out of this. And we know that," English said. "And we are going to continue to connect our businesses with the resources they need.”

Other essential businesses, including health care facilities, pharmacies, grocery stores and restaurant services that provide drive-thru, curbside pick up or delivery services, can remain open.

While carry-out service is no longer allowed after 5 p.m. Monday, Cousins Italian Deli owner Joe DeLiberto said his restaurant, located at 7 N. Third St. will continue its curbside pickup and delivery and “just see how that goes this week.”

The restaurant, however, is going to start limiting its menu. But it will also add whole pizza pies, starting Tuesday, he said Monday.

“It’s been very quiet today,” DeLiberto said. “I am hoping as people get used to this order, they will start to adjust their tendencies and we can get through this without having to close.”

Business for DeLiberto has been dropping, and was off by about 50% last week, he said.

“I’m going to do everything I can right now to make it,” DeLiberto said.
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