Local businesses frustrated over closure policies

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HAZLE TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Governor Wolf announced on Friday that an additional 13 counties will enter the Yellow Phase of the reopening process on May 15th, most of which are located in the Western part of the State. Meanwhile, much of the Eastern part of the Commonwealth remains in the Red phase.

Many local business owners are expressing frustration and raising questions about the closure orders which have been in place since March 23.

Business owners say the closure orders are simply too broad and will keep businesses like those at the Laurel Mall, closed longer than they feel it should be closed.

The sights and sounds of the concourse at the Laurel Mall near Hazleton, not much to hear or see. It’s been like this since late March when the Governor ordered the closure of non-life sustaining businesses. Rocco Arruzzo is the property manager.

 “We were really planning opening maybe be open at least by Memorial Day. We are prepping the mall now just we are in a holding pattern again. “

Luzerne County is still in the Red Phase of reopening. It will remain under closure orders closed until June 4th. But the Governor is leaving open the possibility that red counties could move into the yellow phase sooner than that date, depending on the number of Covid-19 cases in those specific counties.

However, there could still be an issue for malls like this one. They are classified as indoor recreation and as such cannot open in the yellow phase. Arruzzo says he doesn’t understand the state’s logic.

 “It’s retail, service we provide every day. Let’s say a Walmart does or a target or Best Buy. Yes we’re indoors but I don’t see the difference I really don’t.”

In the meantime, steps are being taken for an eventual reopening.

“We changed our seating areas to get 6 feet apart. We adjusted all our food court areas, center court areas to our tables 6 feet apart. And signs on the front door asking people to at least follow social distancing. “

Laurie Veet owns the Cigar Box inside the Laurel Mall. She and other business owners say they are getting ready for an eventual opening, in whatever form that takes.

“We are being proactive and hopeful that it will be open so we are putting into place our sanitizing our plastic coverings and offering curbside.”

Governor Tom Wolf responded to a question submitted by Eyewitness News regarding business owners’ frustrations.

“The frustration has to be directed at the real enemy here.. it’s the virus. It’s not the regulation and anything we do to bring people together whether it’s employees or customers or both, we’re making it easier for that virus to actually attack and infect people and jeopardize their health.”

So what happens if buisness’s don’t follow the order? Andy talked to State Police to find that out.

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