Masks still mandatory in some Victoria stores to keep employees safe, say business owners

Masks still mandatory in some Victoria stores to keep employees safe, say business owners
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Some businesses in Victoria still require customers to wear masks, one week after the provincial mask mandate was lifted.

Bows & Arrows Coffee Roasters still has its COVID-19 protocols in place, after a discussion between owners and employees prior to the lifting of masking restrictions on July 1.

“It seemed arbitrary to be safe one day and the next day we’re just sort of dropping it,” said Drew Johnson, co-owner of the coffee shop. “There was some unease because we are constantly interacting with the public.”

Making the decision was quite easy, Johnson said. It all came down to the comfort level of employees.

“I think it’s just kind of the ongoing anxiety over the past year, so it was an easy decision to just defer to the staff and just take our time with it,” he explained.

The team at Beehive Wool Shop has also decided to keep masks mandatory in the store for the protection of their employees.

“Our staff ages range from the early 20s all the way up to baby boomer range, so we have a breadth of vulnerabilities from either not having their second doses or having health concerns that make them a bit more vulnerable,” said Julia Huggett, manager of Beehive Wool Shop.

READ MORE: Restrictions on gatherings, concerts loosen as B.C. moves into Step 3 of restart plan

Most customers appreciate and respect the store’s protocols, Huggett said, but there has been a handful that disagree.

“Those few customers that have maybe been upset, we’ve just calmly explained our situation,” she said. “The reception from those customers have gone from ‘sure no problem,’ taking their leave, to maybe being a bit more blustered and frustrated.”

While Johnson says he hasn’t dealt with any angry customers himself, he has heard of others dealing with similar situations.

“There’s definitely a lot of business owners [and staff] that are communicating…with other people in the industry and hearing similar stories of some people being quite irate that they’re being told to wear a mask when they want to take their mask off,” he said.

It’s something business owners and employees are dealing with across the board, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), as the province transitions from requiring masks to only recommending them for those not fully vaccinated.

“It’s unfortunate that we are hearing once again an increase in these calls,” said Annie Dormuth, provincial affairs director with the CFIB.

“Small business owners and their employees are facing some difficult decisions to keeping masking or not masking in place in their business and the reaction they are getting from customers… this is going to be part of that messy transition small business owners are going to face.”

At the end of the day, she added, it’s up to the business owners to make the rules in their stores — even though it’s no longer required in public indoor spaces.

READ MORE: B.C. dropping mandatory masks indoors is happening ‘too soon,’ some doctors say

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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