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Edmonton businesses look for more tools to enforce mask mandate

Click to play video 'Edmonton business express concerns over enforcing mask bylaw' Edmonton business express concerns over enforcing mask bylaw
WATCH ABOVE: A racist tirade stemming from the bylaw to wear face coverings inside all publicly-accessible buildings in Edmonton has sparked concerns from business owners about enforcing the rules. Sarah Komadina has more.

Edmonton business owners are looking for the best approach to enforce the city’s new mandatory mask mandate.

Concerns have been elevated after video surfaced of a man who used profanity and racist language towards a liquor store employee while refusing to wear a mask inside the store.

Read more: Edmonton liquor store employee faces racist tirade after customer refuses to wear mask

Click to play video 'Edmonton liquor store racist tirade' Edmonton liquor store racist tirade
Edmonton liquor store racist tirade
“Unfortunately the City has not provided information on what [a business] does when they don’t comply with the bylaw,” said Gurwinder Sekhon, president of North Edmonton Business Association.
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The City of Edmonton said in a statement to Global News that “business owners are not responsible for enforcement and can choose whether to deny service to those who do not comply with the bylaw. Businesses who may face belligerent customers can call Edmonton Police Service for assistance.”

Sekhon said that situation is not always realistic.

“Unfortunately I don’t think the police could respond in an appropriate amount of time. Penalties are minimal and the damage would have already been done when a customer comes in,” Sekhon said.

He said he was surprised to see the security footage of the man berating the liquor store employee.

“It definitely puts stress on a business, because enforcing the bylaw is now on the business owner not on the City who mandated the bylaw. We hope the City would encourage or respond to business owners when they have situations where a customer is not complying with the law.”

Read more: Edmonton residents 80% compliant with new mandatory mask bylaw, city says

Click to play video 'Mask guidelines from infectious disease specialist' Mask guidelines from infectious disease specialist
Mask guidelines from infectious disease specialist

Edmonton restaurant owners at Cartago had already implemented safety measures like face shields/masks, barriers at the front counter and sanitation protocols.

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“On top of everything else [my staff] have to deal with, [the city] is now enforcing that customers wear masks,” owner Katy Ingraham said.

She said most customers happily comply with the new bylaw, but she’s worried that may not always be the case.

“I have anxiety that it might be something we have to deal with and I may not be here or my co-owner or manager isn’t here to deal with it,” she said. “To say that employees, owners and managers don’t need to be enforcing [the bylaw] is completely unrealistic.”
Click to play video 'Ways to make kids comfortable wearing a mask' Ways to make kids comfortable wearing a mask
Ways to make kids comfortable wearing a mask

Ingraham said if she encounters a customer who will not wear a mask, she hopes to send a strong message.

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“If they don’t want to follow the rules that we set out and feel comfortable with, then they are not welcome here,” she said.

Sekhon said it’s important to keep safety in mind.

“Let your customers know we are all in this together. If a customer refuses, you have the right to refuse their business. Never put yourself in harm’s way.”

Read more: COVID-19: Here’s where you have to wear a mask in Alberta

Ingraham echoed the need for safety within the workplace.

“It’s an actual matter of life and death. It’s imperative that managers and owners are empowering their staff to recognize that their safety is the number one concern,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard to remember there is a human person behind a favourite spot. Their safety matters just as much as everybody else’s.”

With files from Sarah Komadina