Client Alert: Executive Order 53 - Understanding How Your Virginia Business is Impacted by Governor Northam's Executive Order

On Monday, March 23, 2020, Governor Northam issued Executive Order 53 (“EO-53”) implementing a variety of state-wide “shutdown” measures intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Governor Northam, through EO-53, ordered a number of private business to close from 11:59 p.m. on March 24, 2020 through 11:59 p.m. on April 23, 2020.

While EO-53 is not a statewide stay-at-home order, it does follow on the heels of such orders implemented in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, California, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Connecticut, Michigan, Kentucky, Louisiana and Illinois.  Additionally, a number of cities and municipalities have issued similar local orders.  Each state order exempts certain “essential businesses” from its shutdown order.  Virginia’s EO-53 is no different.
Governor Northam took a measured approach by closing a number of retail and food and beverage establishments.  Pursuant to EO-53, all dining and congregation areas in restaurants, dining establishments, food courts, breweries, microbreweries, distilleries, wineries, tasting rooms, and farmers markets are closed.  Each establishment listed above, however, may continue to offer take-out and delivery services.

Additionally, EO-53 closed public access to various recreational and entertainment venues, such as: theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers.  The closure also includes fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, and indoor sports and exercise facilities.  The list of closures also includes salons, tattoo parlors, barber shops, spas, racetracks, historic horseracing facilities, bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement.

Remaining brick and mortar retail businesses are allowed to remain open but must limit all in-person shopping to no more than 10 patrons per establishment.   If any such business cannot adhere to the 10 patron limit with proper social distancing requirements, it must close.  For a limited number of retail businesses, these restrictions are inapplicable. 

In Virginia “Essential Retail Businesses” may remain open during their normal hours and adhere to recommended social distancing recommendations and enhanced sanitization standards. Those businesses constituting Essential Retail Businesses include grocery stores; pharmacies; medical retailers; vision supply retailers; laboratory retailers; electronic retailers selling or servicing cell phones, computers, and tablets; automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers; automotive repair facilities; home improvement, hardware, building material, and building supply retailers; lawn and garden equipment retailers; beer, wine, and liquor stores; retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores; retail located within healthcare facilities; banks and other financial institutions with retail functions; pet and feed stores; printing and office supply stores; and laundromats and dry cleaners.  These businesses may continue daily operation.

Lastly, Virginia is asking all businesses offering professional services to utilize teleworking and adhere to social distancing and enhanced sanitizing practices.  Nothing in EO-53 requires the closure of these businesses.

Please note, however, the COVID-19 situation is evolving daily.  Governor Northam may implement another Executive Order in the future that places more restrictions on private business. 

Your team at Whiteford Taylor & Preston LLP is staying up to date with the continuous changes and stands ready to answer any question you may have about whether your business is subject to Virginia’s shutdown.
The information contained here is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion and should not be acted upon without consulting an attorney. Counsel should not be selected based on advertising materials, and we recommend that you conduct further investigation when seeking legal representation.