‘Customers feel safer’: Lethbridge businesses respond to new mask bylaw

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WATCH: Lethbridge businesses say day one of the city's new mandatory face mask bylaw has gone well. As Emily Olsen reports, many of them hope the new bylaw will mean more customers for local hotspots – Aug 25, 2020

Graham Black, assistant manager of Lethbridge’s Bread Milk and Honey Cafe, has heard some businesses are getting flack for sticking to the new mandatory mask bylaw. 

He says for them, it’s not the case.

“Today is Day One, fingers crossed,” Black said. “I’ve seen and heard stories about it, but so far all of my customers have been really great about it. Those that haven’t been wearing masks have simply forgotten and they have it in their car or in their bag, and they can throw it on really easily.”

Read more: Lethbridge becomes latest city to pass mandatory masking bylaw

After he saw the pandemic shut down much of the city, Black says wearing a mask seems to be a reasonable trade-off to keep Lethbridge’s local hotspots in business.

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“The first two weeks of the shutdown were a little bit rough, mostly because people thought we were closed,” Black explained. “We don’t want to see any more numbers rise. We don’t want to see any local businesses shut down because of this and we think the [mandatory] masks [bylaw] is a great way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to keep other people safe.”

Some people in Lethbridge are criticizing the new bylaw — calling it unnecessary– given the current active case count of zero in the city.

At a Monday’s city council meeting, Coun. Campbell explained that masks are not punishment, but rather a preventative measure, especially with schools resuming classes next month and Alberta’s active case count spiking.

Read more: Canada adds 563 new coronavirus cases, surpassing 125,000

Ross Jacobs at the Cor Van Ray YMCA says they’ve been perfecting their mask protocol for some time.

“We actually elected into it a week before the city rolled it out, just so that we could start getting our members and guests used to the process and in turn the systems needed to keep everyone safe,” Jacobs said.

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The added time allowed the YMCA to figure out processes to get people safely to and from mask exemption areas like gym and pool facilities.

“We didn’t know what [details of the bylaw] they would finalize on,” Jacobs said. “But when we saw the first two drafts of the bylaw, we realized there would be some exceptions, so we started figuring out the processes to get people in and out of the different spaces.”

Jacobs says even in those areas, some people still prefer to keep masks on.

As the community adjusts to its new normal, businesses like Bread Milk and Honey say they look forward to seeing more faces come in the door.

Read more: Coronavirus: City of Lethbridge requires face coverings in over a dozen city-owned facilities starting Friday

“I think it’s necessary,” Black said. “I feel a lot safer with it and my customers feel safer too.”

City council will revisit the bylaw on Dec. 31 to evaluate its impact.

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