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Columbia shutters two businesses for allegedly violating closure orders amid COVID-19

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Steve Benjamin 2019 city council (2020_3_24) (copy)

{p class=”p1”}Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin{/p}

The Columbia Police Department over the weekend cited and closed a pair of retail businesses that were continuing to operate despite being deemed nonessential in the city’s recent stay at home order amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.

According to Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons, the department issued citations to and closed two businesses on April 4: The Michael’s Arts and Crafts Supply Store at 4400 Ft. Jackson Blvd., and Kim’s Beauty Max, a beauty and hair supply store at 4119 West Beltline Boulevard.

The City of Columbia passed a stay at home order on March 26, in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID-19, the dangerous coronavirus that has swept across the globe. Columbia’s measure has broad exceptions which allows “essential” businesses and functions — such as grocery stores, gas stations, media, pharmacies, takeout and delivery restaurant services, manufacturing businesses, banks and insurance offices, commercial and residential construction and repairs, and many others — to remain open. Some other cities in South Carolina, including Charleston, also have passed such orders.

According to Timmons, since the passage of the city’s stay at home order, Columbia Police officers had been offering verbal warnings to businesses that needed to shutter because of the stay at home order.

However, she says that the city began taking the next step over the weekend.

“We have to protect the public,” Timmons says.

In the case of Michael’s, the city’s citation and closure was something of a preamble to what would have come anyway. Gov. Henry McMaster has also issued a pair of executive orders that mandate the closure of certain “nonessential” businesses. The second of McMaster’s two orders — which he issued on April 3 — lists craft stores among those that have to close up shop. That order goes into effect Monday at 6.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin says, after a period of warnings and notifications, the city is now beginning more strict enforcement.

“We’re every serious about it,” the mayor says.

On April 2, Columbia City Council passed a measure incorporating McMaster’s first order closing nonessential businesses — issued March 31 — into the city’s city’s stay at home law. Benjamin says City Council will likely also approve a measure to incorporate McMaster’s second round of nonessential closings into the city’s stay at home edict.

Meanwhile, Timmons says the Columbia Police Department has not issued any citations for any large groups or gatherings amid the city’s stay at home order. She says there have been occasions where police have given verbal warnings, and that those gatherings dispersed without any problems.

Also, as pointed out by the police department and Benjamin, as part of the city’s stay at home order, the 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew Columbia City Council approved on March 17 is technically repealed. Benjamin notes that the stay at home order — though it has a vast list of exceptions for essential businesses and services, and for exercise — essentially functions as a 24-hour curfew.

“The [stay at home order] repealed the curfew, because it was replaced by a 24-hour curfew,” says Benjamin, who has continued to implore people to stay at home and not go out unless it is essential.

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