What Is an Essential Business? A State-by-State Roundup of What's Staying Open

While states across the country continue to temporarily shutter businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic, some industries are just too essential to be shut down.

Officials have come to a clear consensus that supermarkets, hospitals, gas stations and banks are too critical to be closed even as more and more state governments issue stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of the disease.

Businesses that don't generally make the "essential" cut are more recreational, like museums, theaters, gyms, casinos and salons. Restaurants also tend to fall into the nonessential categories but most locations can get past that by offering takeout or delivery services only.

Ultimately, it's up to the state or city to decide what businesses can remain open, but the Department of Homeland Security has also issued its own guidance on workers who are essential to infrastructure. The guidance broadly includes over a dozen sectors and was recently amended to include gun and ammunition companies.

Here's a state-by-state roundup of what is still open during the coronavirus outbreak.


All nonessential businesses in the state must close until April 18 due to the spread of coronavirus. Businesses that are allowed to stay open are gun stores, liquor stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks, hardware stores, technology stores and funeral homes. Restaurants are allowed to stay open but for takeout or delivery only.


The state has issued a "hunker down" order directing residents to stay at home and banned most travel within the state except for essential services, which include buying or selling groceries, obtaining fuel for vehicles or residential needs, essential health needs or for transporting family members for out-of-home care.


Governor Doug Ducey has issued a stay-at-home order until April 30. The only businesses open in the state during this time include food and beverage establishments, news media, gas stations, auto-repair shops, banks, laundry services and mail services. Restaurants and fast-food chains can remain open but only for takeout or delivery. Golf courses are also still open.


Arkansas has not issued any shelter-in orders, but Governor Asa Hutchinson has directed residents not to gather in large groups. He also ordered gyms to cease all nonessential operations and banned dine-in at restaurants and bars. Restaurants and bars can still provide meals through carryout and delivery.


Governor Gavin Newsom issued a statewide shelter-in-place order in mid-March. There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors to remain open, which include those providing food services, health care and energy. Businesses deemed essential include gas stations, pharmacies, food stores, banks, laundry services and essential state and local government functions like law enforcement. The state's marijuana dispensaries are also still open for business.


Governor Jared Polis has advised that residents should leave their homes only for "critical activities." Businesses that remain open in the state include grocery stores, farm and produce stands, gas stations and convenience stores, takeout or delivery restaurants and bars, marijuana dispensaries, firearms stores and hardware stores.


Governor Ned Lamont ordered all nonessential businesses to prohibit all in-person functions on March 20. The order excludes essential businesses like convenience stores, gas stations, grocery stores, liquor stores, gun and ammunition stores, big box stores provided they sell food or medicine, pharmacies, pet supplies stores, financial institutions, funeral homes, laundry services and more.


Essential businesses that will stay open during the state's stay-at-home order include grocery stores, liquor stores, pet grooming services, hardware stores, gas stations, financial services and health care services.


Governor Ron DeSantis just issued a statewide stay-at-home order on April 1. He said the state will abide by the list of essential businesses and services outlined by the Department of Homeland Security. His executive order is targeted to individuals and it does not tell nonessential businesses to shut down entirely.


There is no statewide shelter-in-place order and the governor has not forced nonessential businesses to shut down entirely, though bars and clubs have been closed indefinitely.


Governor David Ige signed a stay-at-home order through April 30. Residents can leave home "only for essential activities or to engage in the essential businesses and operations." Essential businesses include grocery stores, pharmacies, licensed medical cannabis dispensaries, certified farmers markets, gas stations, banks, auto shops and many more.

grocery store worker new york coronavirus
A Pat's Farms grocery store worker wears a mask, gloves, and plastic visor while restocking produce on March 31 in Merrick, New York. The World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic on March 11. Al Bello/Getty


Governor Brad Little has ordered all Idaho residents to remain at home except for necessary activities and directed all nonessential businesses to close. Businesses that have been deemed essential include grocery and convenience stores, farmers markets, pet supply stores, beer and wine distributors, homeless shelters and other social service providers, auto repair and supply stores, hardware and gun stores, banks and credit unions, laundry services, hotels, child care facilities, and legal or accounting services.


Illinois has extended its stay-at-home order until April 30. Essential businesses that will remain open during that time include stores that sell groceries or medicine, gas stations, financial institutions, hardware stores, funeral homes, hotels, laundry services and more.


Businesses deemed essential during the state's stay-at-home order include grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, police stations, fire stations, hospitals, health care facilities, garbage pickup, public transit and public service hotlines. Restaurants can also remain open but for takeout or delivery only.


Many businesses in the state are still open, but so far Governor Kim Reynolds has ordered bars, restaurants, hair salons, book stores, clothing stores, florists and furniture stores to close. Those closures will be in place through April 7.


Under the statewide stay-at-home order, which is in effect until at least April 19, essential businesses include grocery stores, markets, restaurants that offer food for carryout, liquor stores, laundromats, dry cleaners, home supplies stores, banks, child care facilities, gas stations and most legal services.


Governor Andy Beshear has designated many "life-saving" retailers that can remain open during the state's shutdown. They include grocery stores, drug stores, pharmacies, banks, hardware stores, businesses that sell electrical, plumbing and heating material or agricultural supplies. Beshear has ordered retail stores that remain open to try to permit customers to use delivery or curbside service.


Businesses allowed to remain open during the statewide stay-at-home order include pharmacies, grocery stores, liquor stores, restaurants providing takeout or delivery services only. Farm workers, electricity and utility industry employees, critical manufacturing employees are also considered essential.


Governor Janet Mills issued an executive order that sharply restricts business activity and travel in the state until at least the end of April. Some of the essential businesses that are permitted to remain open include medical facilities (including medical marijuana dispensaries), banks and financial services, agriculture manufacturers, funeral homes, homeless shelters, takeout food and companies that deliver energy, public works and communications.


Governor Larry Hogan has ordered all nonessential businesses to close. The exceptions include food stores, pet stores, auto shops, gas stations and financial services. Restaurant carry-outs, liquor stores and day care centers are among the businesses that can remain open. Big-box stores such as Target and Walmart will remain open but will have to limit how many people can be inside at once.


Governor Charlie Baker has extended his original executive order requiring nonessential businesses to close their physical locations. But businesses deemed to be essential include restaurants and bars for takeout and delivery, grocery stores, food packaging facilities, pharmacies, banks, liquor stores, medical marijuana stores (recreational marijuana stores must close) blood banks, cemeteries, funeral homes and crematoriums. Baker recently limited how much hotels, motels and Airbnbs can stay open.


Governor Gretchen Whitmer has issued a stay-at-home order until at least April 14. Here's the businesses that are allowed to remain open: restaurants offering takeout or delivery services, hotels, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations and service garages, drug stores, banks, laundromats and marijuana retailers.


The definition of "essential businesses" is broad in Minnesota, but retailers that can clearly stay open during the state's stay-at-home order include food, pharmacy, hardware and dry cleaners. Bike shops are also permitted to stay open.


Supermarkets, food and beverage stores, food providers, convenience stores, pharmacies, hardware and building materials, gas stations and restaurants or bars are deemed essential but can only have 10 people or less gathered together at a single time.


Missouri's two largest cities, Kansas City and St. Louis, have issued stay-at-home orders but Governor Mike Parson has not taken statewide action and most businesses have been able to stay open. Though restaurants and bars have been limited to takeout and delivery.


Governor Steve Bullock has issued an order directing residents to stay at home and closing nonessential businesses. Businesses that are allowed to remain open include stores that sell groceries and medicine, food and beverage production, organizations that provide charitable and social services, media, gas stations, financial and real estate services, hardware and supply stores, mail and shipping, laundry services. Other industries that are still open are transportation such as airlines and taxis, home-based care, hotels and funeral services.


Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts has allowed all businesses to remain open, though restaurants and bars may face further limitations to takeout and delivery service.


Home maintenance/repair services, auto repair services, gas stations, grocery stores, hardware stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, health care operations, shipping outlets, banks, pet stores, laundromats and dry cleaners, agriculture and food processing plants are some of the essential businesses still operating during the statewide stay-at-home order.

New Hampshire

Groceries, pharmacies, florists, and other retail, including farmers markets and farm stands, that sell food and beverage products. Restaurants can stay open but only for delivery or takeout. Other workers deemed essential include plumbers, electricians, exterminators, inspectors and other service providers. Banks and other financial institutions are also essential, as well as gas stations and transportation services.

New Jersey

Grocery stores, farmers markets, pharmacies, medical marijuana dispensaries, medical supply stores, gas stations, convenience stores, hardware and home improvement stores, banks and other financial institutions, gardens and nurseries, laundromats and dry cleaning services, pet stores, liquor stores, car dealerships (but only for maintenance and repair) and stores that principally sell supplies for children under 5 years old are some of the businesses permitted to remain open during the statewide stay-at-home order.

New Jersey had originally left gun stores off its list of essential businesses, but Governor Phil Murphy has since reversed course and allowed them to remain open during the outbreak.

New Mexico

Essential businesses include food and beverage stores, home improvement stores, medical cannabis shops, pharmacies, funeral homes, gas stations, laundry services and banks. Gun shops are not considered an essential business. Restaurants are also allowed to stay open but only for delivery or carry out and local breweries or distilleries but only for carryout.

New York

Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a guidance on essential services after shutting down most stores in the state on March 22. Businesses that are allowed to remain open during the pandemic include food and beverage stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, farmers markets, gas stations and hardware stores. Restaurants and bars will be open but for takeout or delivery services only.

North Carolina

Essential businesses under Governor Roy Cooper's stay-at-home order include stores that sell groceries and medicine including supermarkets, convenience stores, farm/produce stands, farmers markets and pharmacies. It also includes hotels, pet stores, laundromats, dry cleaners, electronic retailers that sell cellphones and computers, bookstores that sell educational material and organizations that provide social services.

North Dakota

Governor Doug Burgum has restricted some businesses from carrying out on-site services, including bars, cafes and restaurants, breweries and similar businesses. They must close to on-site patrons by noon Friday, but they can continue with takeout, delivery, curbside and drive-thru services. The restrictions also apply to recreation facilities, health clubs, athletic facilities, entertainment venues and theaters.


Governor Mike DeWine ordered many nonessential businesses to close, but the ones that are allowed to stay open include stores that sell groceries and medicine, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, supermarkets and pet supplies stores. Supply stores for business operations, agriculture operations and medical operations can also remain in business. Taxis, airports, laundry services and funeral services are also permitted to stay open.


Governor Kevin Stitt has recommended that nonessential businesses in the state close but has a broad guidance on what retailers and industries are allowed to remain open amid the coronavirus outbreak. As part of his recommendations for what counts as an essential business, Stitt pointed to guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that highlights 16 essential infrastructure sectors.


Governor Kate Brown has issued a stay-at-home order for residents and closed many nonessential businesses. Essential workers like grocers, health care workers, certain city workers, gas station attendants and bank tellers can all remain on the job. Brown's order does not list every single business that's allowed to remain open, but she said she is asking residents to take personal responsibility to help slow the spread of the disease.


Governor Tom Wolf ordered all nonessential businesses to close. Among those allowed to stay open are gas stations, grocery stores, beer distributors, drugstores, dry cleaners, laundromats and building materials stores. Restaurants and bars can continue to offer carry-out, delivery and drive-thru food and drink service only. All sectors of the natural resource and mining industry can also stay open. Previously, much of this industry, like coal mining and logging, were told to close.

Rhode Island

Governor Gina Raimondo has banned the operation of all noncritical and nonessential retail businesses. Essential businesses that can remain open include gun stores, liquor stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, pet stores, funeral homes, supply stores, compassion centers and gas stations.

avalon theater washington dc closed coronavirus
A message is seen on the sign at the Avalon Theatre, temporarily closed due to the coronavirus, in Washington, D.C. on March 17. Theaters in many states have been closed due to coronavirus. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

South Carolina

Governor Henry McMaster ordered all nonessential businesses in South Carolina to close on March 31. The order does not apply to grocery stores, drug stores, pharmacies, laundromats, banks, gas stations, hardware stores and day care centers. Takeout from restaurants and window orders from fast-food chains are still allowed. Big-box stores like Walmart and Target, which sell groceries and drugs, are also allowed to stay open.

South Dakota

The state has not imposed many restrictions amid the coronavirus outbreak. Most businesses, including restaurants and bars, are still open.


Governor Bill Lee shut down nonessential businesses on March 31. The retailers that are allowed to remain open include grocery stores, pharmacies, certified farmers markets and convenience stores. Nonprofit organizations such as food banks and homeless shelters are also essential. Many infrastructure operations and human service operations are also allowed to stay open.


Essential services and critical operations like grocery stores, hardware stores and pharmacies are still open in the Lone Star State, though most other businesses have been forced to close through the end of April. Restaurants and bars can also remain in business but only for takeout or delivery.


All residents are under a "stay home, stay safe" directive but there's no statewide mandate in place from Governor Gary Herbert. Salt Lake County has ordered a number of businesses closed and told residents to only venture outside the home for essential activities like grocery shopping.


Governor Phil Scott exempted 80 industries from his order to close all nonessential businesses to slow spread of the coronavirus. Businesses that are allowed to remain open include liquor stores, grocery stores and pharmacies. Exceptions were also made "critical manufacturing" for food and medicine and other "manufacturing necessary to support the COVID-19 response as well as economic and national security."


Governor Ralph Northam still allows restaurants and nonessential brick-and-mortar retail stores to continue operating, so long as they limit people in any space to 10 and stick to delivery, takeout and pickup services at restaurants.


State officials have said if a business doesn't support an essential service like health care, transportation, or food supply, it must be closed. Other retailers allowed to stay open during the stay-at-home order include laundromats, dry cleaners and marijuana dispensaries. Construction can continue but only for essential businesses.

West Virginia

Governor Jim Justice issued a stay-at-home order March 23 that shut down all nonessential businesses. The businesses that can remain open include grocery stores, pharmacies, human services organizations, child care facilities, infrastructure and utilities and coal mining. Other essential businesses include gas stations, hotels, banks, hardware and supply stores and critical trades.


Governor Tony Evers has issued a month-long safer at home order that prohibits all nonessential business. Businesses that will remain open include grocery stores, farmers markets, pharmacies, health care supply stores, child care facilities, gas stations and auto repair facilities, banks, laundry businesses and hardware stores.


On March 30, Governor Mark Gordon said he doesn't plan to order residents to stay at home, but he has shut down some businesses including bars, dine-in service at restaurants, museums, theaters, hair salons and tattoo shops.

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