Essential vs. non-essential businesses: What’s the difference?

A shelf of goods inside a hardware store

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Just as Gov. Tony Evers tweeted he is ordering all non-essential places to temporarily close Tuesday, stores in the La Crosse area noticed a sudden uptick in business.

“The past week has been a little slow,” ACE Hardware industrial salesperson Timm Holt said. “Today has been very busy.”

But before you rush out to a local store, keep in mind, it could be staying open.

Cities and states throughout the country determine which businesses are essential and non-essential.

According to a guide by the Department of Homeland Security, essential businesses are ones people need to use daily.

That includes hospitals and clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores, banks, and hardware stores to name a few.

“If your toilet breaks or something breaks, you know, you still need to get those things repaired in your home as you’re quarantined,” Holt said.

Holt says even though the hardware store will remain open, he wouldn’t be surprised if there are several changes.

“You know, we’ll probably be on a limited work staff,” Holt said. “If you offer delivery service, that could cease…Maybe limiting how many people are in the store at one time. It’s hard to say.”

However, other businesses aren’t staying open at all, including bars and restaurants, gyms, malls, museums, salons and spas and others.

But there is one exception for some restaurants.

“It’s mandated by the state that there is no dine-in at all, so everything that we’re doing here is to go,” Grounded Specialty Coffee owner Maria Norberg said.

Area restaurants already offering take-out orders will remain open once Governor Evers’ order starts Tuesday, but no customers can enter.

“We’ve already had a lot of experience in handling a lot of take out orders as that is very popular in the downtown area,” Norberg said.

Businesses understand the coronavirus outbreak is affecting everyone, but the ones staying open have one priority.

“With anybody that’s in health care or you know, stores and Walgreens and whatnot, we’re here to help people,” Holt said.

Evers did not say in his tweet specifically which stores would be shutting down.

If you would like to look at a list of other essential businesses, just visit this link on