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Grants business owner facing $60K fine

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Diane Rowe, owner of Papa’s Pawn & Gun, high fives Mayor Martin Hicks outside her business in Grants on Monday. (Luis Sanchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Diane Rowe was expecting to be fined $100 or face possible jail time for keeping her pawn and gun shop open in Grants in defiance of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, she says she has been charged $5,000 a day by the state. And the fine she’s facing now totals $60,000 over a 12-day period.

“I did not expect this for standing up for my rights,” she told the Journal.

Rowe said her business – Papa’s Pawn and Gun – had received a cease-and-desist order from the New Mexico State Police before Monday, when Grants Mayor Martin Hicks declared businesses deemed nonessential could open in defiance of Lujan Grisham.

She thought the order served as a warning and the next step would be the misdemeanor charge.

Rowe said “six or seven” State Police vehicles surrounded her business on North First Street on Monday. She said a couple of officers taped her ticket to the door of the business. State Police spokesman officer Ray Wilson said she received the cease-and-desist order on April 14, and a citation Monday to appear in court.

She said she found out from the state that the cease-and-desist order was serving as her misdemeanor charge, which moved her up to the next step of punishment.

She’s vowing to fight the charge – and is also keeping her business open.

“I’ve been contacted by a constitutional law attorney,” she said. “I’m getting him the documents I received from the state.”

Rowe said she has done her “due diligence” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“All I want is the chance to prove it,” she said. “That’s what all of the businesses in Grants want, is to prove that we can do it just like the big box stores can,” referring to Walmart, Walgreens and Smith’s Food and Drug Store, which have remained open.

“We are practicing social distancing,” said Rowe, whose shop is lined with tape. “I only allow two people in the store at a time. We don’t allow children. We want them to be safe. We don’t allow browsers.”

Rowe believes her business is essential since it is also a gun shop, which she feels is protected under the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She said it serves local law enforcement officers.

Under Lujan Grisham’s orders Friday lifting some restrictions, it’s possible Rowe could operate her business by appointment – if she lived in another part of the state. Gun shops are allowed to be open by appointment only.

The relaxed business restrictions don’t apply to McKinley, Cibola and San Juan counties. It also stipulates that those three counties remain under the tighter restrictions from the previous order because of the high COVID-19 numbers in the Four Corners region.

“This is not right,” Rowe said. “It’s just not right.”

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