Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson and Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica today sent a second letter to Gov. Phil Murphy requesting the opening of all retail businesses. Their first letter on May 18 asked the governor to open stores by the Memorial Day weekend.

Non-essential businesses remain closed except for curbside pickup, including many mom and pop stores that depend on the summer tourism season to carry them through the year. However, big box stores, such as Target, Sam’s Club and Walmart that sell some of the same products are permitted to operate, they said.

Levinson said those stores are benefiting during the pandemic, while the smaller store are “bleeding dry.”

“It would be helpful if we had an explanation to provide them or the science and data behind your decision to keep them closed or operating at a limited capacity,” they wrote in the letter.

Levinson and Formica contend that smaller businesses can be more responsible than their larger competitors.

Atlantic County Freeholder Chairman Frank Formica.

“It is far easier for them to enforce social distancing, face masks, and hygiene and sanitation protocols by virtue of the smaller numbers of customers and employees,” they said.

In his Road Back plan, Murphy said restoring the state’s economic health would consider public health policies and be done in three stages. The state is currently in Stage 1.

“Our multi-stage approach uses science, data, and facts to determine which businesses and activities can reopen according to their risk level and challenges they face to safeguard public health,” he said on May 18.

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.