• Lynda Cohen

EHT Lowe's has no COVID-19 violations despite complaints, police find

Despite several calls to Egg Harbor Township police, the Lowe’s Home Improvement store has not been found in violation of the governor’s order relating to businesses, police reports show.

Officers have responded to the store on the Black Horse Pike eight times between April 2 and this past Monday, according to documents obtained by Breaking AC through an Open Public Records Act request.

The reports show responding officers talked to managers at the store each time.

Police Chief Michael Steinman even investigated the issue himself Tuesday, after the records request was made, a report he filed shows.

There appears to be a discrepancy between the normal occupancy corporate has for the store — 5,247 — and the limit set by the certificate of occupancy — 1,500.

Steinman, who is also the township’s emergency management coordinator, advised the manager of the CO limit, so that he could forward it to corporate.

But the chief also noted that the store doesn’t appear to have surpassed the 50 percent occupancy limit of the lower number.

Steinman also went to the Home Depot across the street to see how they are handling the issue, and noted in his report that they had a line outside of the single entrance, controlled by an employee.

They are allowing only 100 customers, which is monitored by an app as customers enter and exit, according to the report. Their normal capacity is 1,700.

The difference in how the two similar stores are handling the issue could be the reason for the calls to Lowe’s. There have been no complaints about Home Depot.

After the third call about Lowe’s on April 14, an officer sat outside the store for about 20 to 25 minutes and watched about 30 to 40 patrons go in.

All were wearing masks and in compliance, the officer noted.

The responding officers also talked to the floor manager, Pat Cavanaugh, who said “there may be ‘a few stragglers’ who try to enter without a face mask (but) the matter gets addressed and everyone else has been complying with the governor’s order,” the report states.

A call five days later is attributed to a “disgruntled employee calling in complaints.”

A detective responded, spoke with the manager and noted that everyone was wearing masks and the store wasn’t overcrowded.

A week later, officers again went to the store after violation allegations made over the weekend.

At that time, patrons could come inside three ways: the main entrance, garden center and construction doors.

A officer spoke to the assistant manager, and when police checked back later, customers could only enter through the front doors.

Calls on April 22 and 25 resulted in discussions with Manager Jesse O’Brien, who noted that all employees and customers were wearing masks, there was signage about social distancing posted, and that there are six-foot markers at the registers.

“At this point, there weren’t enough patrons in the store to even start letting people in one by one,” the April 22 report notes.

The last call came in Monday, when Assistant Manager Erich Kunz said they were monitoring doors to make sure everyone had on masks, and noted the highest number in the store was about 800 to 900 people.

He also told the officer he would speak with corporate about how they will handle the busy times on weekends.

The next day, the police chief gave O’Brien the information that the CO filed with the township is significantly lower than capacity corporate has.

“It should be noted that despite the complaints, there are no known violations of Executive Order 122 documented as being observed and no enforcement action has been taken,” Steinman wrote in the report.

Click below to read police reports

police calls to Lowe's in EHTpdf


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