Joe Malinconico, Paterson Press
Published 5:18 p.m. ET March 18, 2020 |Updated 8:02 p.m. ET March 18, 2020
Paterson Mayor gives a guideline for shutting down businesses due to the Coronavirus, on 03/18/20.
PATERSON — On the streets around City Hall, downtown Paterson on Wednesday morning reflected a mixed bag of compliance with the mayor’s emergency order shutting down “non-essential” businesses because of the coronavirus crisis.
Many stores were closed, with their metal security gates pulled down blocking their entrances, apparently in response to the directive issued by Mayor Andre Sayegh on Monday.
But other establishments deemed by the mayor as “non-essential” remained open, conducting business as usual. Among those still operating were numerous furniture and cellphone stores, several pawnbrokers and smoke shops, and some clothing and beauty supply stores.
As the mayor walked from City Hall through the downtown commercial district on Wednesday, he passed more than a dozen open businesses that he said should have been closed. On Main Street, Sayegh used his cellphone to call Public Safety Director Jerry Speziale, directing him to send police officers to shut down stores he said were open illegally.
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“At first we’re issuing warnings,” Speziale said in a subsequent interview. After the warnings, businesses that stay open will get summonses, the director said. On Tuesday, Paterson police issued one summons to a business for violating the emergency shutdown order, officials said.
Sayegh’s coronavirus business shutdown is more restrictive than the one Gov. Phil Murphy has imposed statewide, officials said. Several types of businesses, like liquor stores, that are allowed to stay open in neighboring communities must close in Paterson.
The mayor said he had to take a tougher stand because the city is so densely populated.
“Paterson is a compact city, so you can’t take the same approach you would anywhere else,” the mayor said.
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The owner of a smoke shop on Main Street in South Paterson said city police officers told him on Monday night that he didn’t have to close down. “It doesn’t apply to us,” asserted the merchant, who refused to give his name.
Nearby, the owner of a cellphone store that appeared be open said he was only doing some paperwork and not making any sales. Ten minutes later, a customer walked into the store and later left carrying a bag, saying he had bought a new phone.
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