Businesses can make own mask rules despite mandate ending

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/8/2021 1:00:06 PM

Local chambers of commerce are urging patrons to respect the wishes of local businesses that are continuing with mask mandates even after the state’s mandate expired on April 16.

Nonie’s Restaurant and Bakery owner Greg Smith said he hadn’t noticed an increase in unmasked patrons since the statewide mask ordinance expired, but that his business was continuing with all COVID-19 prevention protocols regardless. Most people continue to wear their masks when visiting, he said. A share of people refuse, which sometimes prompts Smith himself to explain to them that Nonie’s requires masks for the safety of employees and others. The restaurant continues to require masks, and is keeping Plexiglas barriers and distanced seating arrangements in place. “I don’t see any reason to stop,” he said. “This thing’s not over,” he said.

Eastern Mountain Sports in Peterborough has also left their mask policy unchanged, despite the lifting of the mandate. Signs on the door still indicate that masks and social distancing are required in the store. The prevalence of masked versus unmasked customers hasn’t appeared to change since the state mandate expired, an employee who identified himself as Keith said on Thursday.

Over at the Pizza Peddler, owner Chris Petrakos said he wears a face shield when it gets crowded behind the counter and instructs employees to stay socially distanced, but customers are no longer required to wear masks. “I don’t think I’m above the Constitution,” he said, although he would follow regulations if the state decided to reinstate them. There might have been a small increase in customers coming in without masks since the mandate lifted, but it wasn’t a change he noticed immediately, he said. However, he has noticed a change in customers’ dispositions. “It seems like people are happier now,” he said.

A number of Peterborough businesses have signed on to ask customers and the community to “continue to protect our staff and other customers by wearing masks in our shops and restaurants through the summer months,” Peterborough’s Community and Economic Development Coordinator Karen Hatcher said. Eighteen Peterborough shops, restaurants, and other businesses added their names to the request as of Wednesday, she said.

Although people are “getting antsy” because COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out, the Chamber supports individual businesses choices and encourage the public to do the same, Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce president Cyndy Burgess said. “We are going to honor and respect the individual businesses and services… as far as what they choose to do,” she said. Masks are still required in the office of Self Storage of Jaffrey and Peterborough, which Burgess owns, and a mask mandate is still in effect at Country Bridal in Jaffrey, she said.

“It’s more of a matter of respecting the wishes of private organizations,” Greater Keene and Peterborough Chamber of Commerce president Phil Suter said. “They’re looking out for their customers and their employees.” The Chamber didn’t receive any comments after the first weekend following the state’s mask mandate expired, he said. “We urge people to be respectful of other people,” he said.

Last week, Governor Chris Sununu announced that all state COVID-19 restrictions on businesses would be lifted May 7, encouraging businesses to follow Universal Best Practices guidance.

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