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Big box and small business — Are they being treated the same?

Alabama is only four days out from the expiration of Governor Kay Ivey’s stay-at-home order.

The state has nearly four weeks now to reflect on the impact of its economic lockdown and how this should guide its reopening.

Big box versus small business. Commerce has moved right along at many of Alabama’s large retailers. Long lines to enter have continued to be the norm, and this has been a point of contention for many. These stores employ thousands of people and anchor large shopping centers, so the criticism is not directed at them. Rather, how the rules have applied to them versus small business is what is causing great angst.

Earlier this week, State Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) elaborated on what he views as a double standard for big box stores and small business. On Saturday, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) joined with Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth to highlight what Byrne called a “disparity in rules.”

The state sought to limit interaction between customers so it closed many small businesses and allowed large stores to remain open. This did not accomplish what it was intended and in the process penalized small businesses, according to State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville).

“The mistake the state made in shutting down some businesses was we made some broad rules like square footage, for example,” he told Yellowhammer News. “The state limited you to half the square footage that your fire marshal has for you to operate. What we found out was that they had double the capacity of the practical operating capacity.”

Garrett mentioned a large retail outlet in Jefferson County which normally was allowed to have 700 buggies under the fire marshal’s guidelines. However, the store never kept out more than 400 at any one time, while usually only having less than half of those occupied by customers. So when the state deemed the store could have 350 buggies, it had no effect on the store’s operation.

“You did not do anything,” he remarked.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

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