Commentary: Fair play now for small businesses

By Abraxas Hudson

Memorial Day is rapidly approaching and many businesses have to wait until Monday to open and at a limited capacity at that point, still insufficient to sustain many businesses.

This is unfair. The pain on the street is real and the playing field needs to be leveled. There is no reason certain businesses have been allowed to prosper while others suffer.

I have sent this letter to statewide to media, politicians, and opinion leaders.

Do the right thing and do it now. Act quickly, and don’t burden the state with paying for the mountain of lawsuits that are heading your way. We don’t want free money; we want to work, and we are taking our lives back.

Why the thought that masks only work in selected stores? Small businesses and our families are essential, and we demand the right to survive. We are capable of implementing the same safety protocols large businesses are using. Some folks are more concerned with the battle against the virus. For me and many others, the financial strain is more immediately concerning.

Last Friday an officer with Lewes Police Department told me to comply with the lockdown orders or face criminal charges. My reply was that I was considering getting arrested in order to fight the mandate on constitutional grounds. I dug in and told him I would comply as a home furnishings store which allows by appointment visits. I put up a sign that said, “call for an appointment or just say hello and I’ll walk out and schedule you.”

I told him my concern is bigger than my personal situation and many folks are at the edge of their financial survival. He said, “You just worry about yourself.” Well, that’s not who I am. Honestly my viewpoint is simple: As I watch other businesses thrive without slowing down, why are others not allowed to open following the same protocols?

Lowe’s, Home Depot, Wawa, the coffee shop across the street, the florist, and the liquor stores are all thriving while my retail neighbors discuss losing businesses and losing their homes. A friend committed suicide due to shutdown strain. The pain is real, the inequity clear.

I’ve been trying to get local businesses to open while following safety protocols with the message being clear – we demand fairness, and you can’t arrest us all. Unfortunately, I guess I’m the lone nutjob on the corner sounding the alarm, but I wear that label proudly.

Many people who are not on the ground floor are calling local business owners greedy and irresponsible for wanting to open. This is about fair treatment and survival, not greed. Anyone who has thus far been insulated from the financial impact will at some point discover how interconnected we all are.

We are all capable of being responsible, so give us small business owners the same opportunity to survive this crisis, and do it now.

Abraxas Hudson is an artist and owner of Abraxas Studio of Art in Lewes.