“It causes confrontation”: Business owners grapple with mask mandate

Business owners grapple with mask mandate

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Business owners are in tricky positions as Governor Roy Cooper’s mask mandate and other COVID-19 regulations have people divided in beliefs over what customers should be required to do.

At Hoplite Irish Pub in Carolina Beach, owner Noel Stevens says she’s basically a bouncer and the ‘mask police.'

“I literally stand at the door and as people are walking in I point to my mask,” Stevens said. “Most of them just pull it out of their pocket and they put it on, and then I explain to them—like there’s some confusion about what they’re supposed to be doing—I say, ‘Thirty seconds. Put the mask on while you walk in the door until you sit down; put it on again if you go to the bathroom and then when you’re leaving.‘”

Health officials implore you to wear a mask to protect others but the actual enforcement of the governor’s mandate is tricky.

Law enforcement and public health officials are focused on education and urging people to comply.

A spokesperson for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office confirmed they have not written any citations since the mandate took effect.

“If I go into a restaurant, let’s say, and the wait staff is wearing a face covering, they’re protecting me from them; their face is covered,” said New Hanover County Assistant Health Director Carla Turner. “If I’ve not bothered to put on a face covering, then I’m not protecting them from me.”

“We’re doing the best we can to protect our employees also, because we don’t want to have to close down, we don’t want to have to get everyone tested, we don’t want to have anything happen to our guests or our staff,” said Stevens.

Hardwire Tattoo owner Justin LaNasa says he believes masks will help slow the spread of COVID-19, but he does not appreciate the position the mandate puts him in.

“When they’re holding businesses accountable for people’s actions it causes confrontation,” he said. “We’ve seen people blow up on us for telling them they should wear a mask. What that’s going to do is cause more police intervention, cause more just, strife among the community. We don’t need to fight and argue between each other and that’s where government has let us all down.”

At Modern Legend next door, store owner Catherine Hawksworth says she caters to a younger, more progressive clientele. She’s had no problems with mask compliance thus far.

“I think as long as you aren’t aggressive towards people, they’re not going to be aggressive back and I think for the most part, yeah it’s uncomfortable and it’s weird; but, if it’s between someone coming in and spending some money or protecting each other, its an obvious choice for me. We’re all struggling; we’re all small business owners; we all want to be able to have as many people in as normal but it’s just not the reality of the world right now,” Hawksworth said.

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