WATERTOWN — Dave Etsen was at his store in the Salmon Run Mall last week giving it a deep cleaning, setting up wash stations and putting up shields at cash registers. He was preparing to open under Phase II, but chaos ensued and then malls were left out.
Anything with an outdoor entrance at Salmon Run Mall is allowed to open under Phase II of the reopening, however those with indoor entrances — many local small businesses — are still not permitted to open.
In the days leading up to the beginning of Phase II — Friday, May 29 — Mr. Etsen was preparing his store, Rainbow Zen, which has been located inside the mall for more than 10 years.
But then the north country scrambled when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was going to consult with “international experts” in deciding whether Phase II could proceed.
Friday came, and Phase II was halted. It wasn’t until that afternoon when the governor gave the green light for Phase II, which included retail, could begin. But the stores inside malls were left out.
“We do not know why,” Mr. Etsen said. “That’s the million-dollar question. The governor gave absolutely zero reasoning. He gave no science, nothing.”
One of the most frustrating aspects to the pandemic is Mr. Etsen followed the rules immediately when the PAUSE order went into effect in the middle of March.
“But at this point,” he said, “it has become arbitrary and discriminatory.”
Meanwhile, large stores like Costco and Walmart had always remained open as Mr. Etsen sits on the sidelines and watches customers buy items there that they could buy at his store.
“It’s a slap to the face,” he said. “Small businesses are being crushed.”
Mr. Etsen doesn’t want to disparage large companies, but he argues that there would likely be more social distancing in a mall than there is at, say, Walmart.
“Big corporate stores have had free rein to do what they want,” he said. “We just want a fair playing field.”