A sign outside a closed casino in Lovelock protests Governor Steve Sisolak’s closure order.
A sign outside a closed casino in Lovelock protests Governor Steve Sisolak’s closure order.
On Friday, most “non-essential” Lovelock business owners had closed their doors in response to the state-wide closure order through April 16. Governor Steve Sisolak then notified local authorities to enforce the order and treat business owners who refused to comply as criminals.

“Sisolak said, during a press conference, if you are not an essential business, I order you to close,” KUNR radio reported. “Sisolak said it will give local governments additional authority to yank licences and impose fines on non-compliant business owners. He said state and local law enforcement will also have the ability to treat those who violated the shut down as criminals.”

After a subsequent teleconference with Attorney General Aaron Ford, Sheriff Jerry Allen said he and other local officials will determine how and when they will go about closure enforcement.

“The conference call reiterated the Governor’s order to have all nonessential businesses shut down by midnight tonight,” Allen said. “It affords cities and counties to be able to enforce the order and regulations. Much discretion will need to be used to enforce this order. My office will not be ‘actively’ looking for businesses who are non-compliant but will respond to reports as we can. We will also work with business owners to navigate this new order as this is unchartered territory for us.”

By Saturday, Allen said he had reached out to several local business owners “who are already following the guidelines set forth in the order and are making the best they can of the situation.”

“It is in times like these the people of Pershing County really come together to support each other,” he added. “We will all weather this situation and be a stronger community.”

By Friday, casino owner Steve Young had complied with the order by closing his business but not without a written public protest. Signs at the business entrance expressed his opinion that Sisolak’s order was irrational and an unnecessary threat to the economic health of a rural area with no evidence so far of the coronavirus according to Pershing County health officials.

“Closed until April 16, 2020 or until our deranged Governor comes to his senses and quits hurting small businesses,” stated signs taped to the casino doors on Friday. Another Lovelock business owner echoed the concern. La Casita owner Alicia Dyer is worried about her business after health department officials forced her to close the restaurant and lay off her staff.

“Yesterday, the state health department said I could not be open. I have to have a drive-thru and I do not have a drive thru,” she explained. “We tried doing take-out orders and it wasn’t worth it because people are not coming out to eat. I had to lay off eight full-time and part-time people.”

Dyer said she was given no time frame so there appears  to be no end in sight right now. 

“I will just wait. I don’t know what else to do. The only thing is I own the building so that is the only thing that’s saving me,” she said. “The problem is that we don’t have enough people in this town to support a drive-thru. They’re welcome to order food to go but nobody was coming.”

Dyer believes her regular customers are staying home to cut expenditures just in case.

“Nobody has the money to come and eat. Everybody is holding on to their money because some people are not working,” she said. “I hope that we can go back to work soon. If the mines lay off workers then we’re really going to be in trouble.” 

Regular customers include senior citizens who count on her for cooked meals, Dyer said.

‘I get a lot of miners and a lot of older people that depended on me to come here and eat, some of them three meals a day,” she said. “I don’t know what they are doing. They are senior citizens — men who are by themselves. They can only go to McDonalds probably to get food.”

If the shut-down lasts for just a month, Dyer said she could afford to hire back her staff.

“I’m sure that I can bring my people back because they all like this place a lot. It’s pretty famous in town,” she said. “I’ve been here 26 years so they all know me. My business is super good.”

Take-out food was available at Valero, Chevron and other gas stations as well as at Temptations, a downtown delicatessen and coffee shop. Homebound seniors could request that meals be delivered to their homes by calling the Pershing County Senior Center at 273-2291.

Lovelock Mayor Mike Giles questioned Sisolak’s authority to issue a statewide closure.

“How does the governor have the right to shut businesses down? Most small businesses can’t stand to shut down,” he said. “I really question whether he has the authority to do that. It threatens everybody in the state and I think it’s overly cautious. Until we have a raging pandemic, why do we need to invoke all these things?”

Giles said businesses could stay open if “common sense” procedures were implemented.

“Why do we need to bankrupt the state?” he asked.”Issue the guidelines and let local officials make the decisions on their own. I don’t think elected officials have the authority to tell a business owner what to do. Unless push comes to shove, I will not tell any of my business owners to shut down. It’s too difficult to make a living.”