Calgary restaurant owner worries about reaction from anti-mask diners

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WATCH: A Calgary restaurant is sounding the alarm over guests refusing to wear masks. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, some say the situation has become worse since school started – Sep 19, 2020

A Calgary restaurant owner is expressing concerns over the actions of people opposed to the city’s mandatory mask bylaw.

Stephen Deere, who owns Modern Steak on Stephen Avenue, was surprised to see a post on the establishment’s Facebook page complaining about the sheep decorations in the restaurant.

The sheep statues at Modern Steak are adorned with cloth masks — but some guests aren’t amused by the masked mutton.

Read more: Face masks ‘more guaranteed’ to work against coronavirus than vaccine, CDC director warns

The post from one person read:

“Won’t be visiting you again and making sure many others won’t either. How disgusting to walk into a place to eat and do not only have the servers all masked up… but also your decor. How absolutely nauseating! Tragic. You should be ashamed that you are normalizing this sick situation. Truly pathetic.”

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“Guests have walked out and said, ‘I have to wear a mask?’ and they walked out,” Deere said.

“We have had people who have stormed off or raised their voices and threatening postures. Management is at the door and we can deal with this. However, I’m sounding the alarm because if it gets to the other side of that, then we have a whole different problem.”

Read more: ‘This is not the time to be selfish’: How face masks became a mirror of humanity amid COVID-19

Deere said he’s heard from owners of other restaurants about similar issues, with staff being harassed by guests who are angry with the city mask bylaw.

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“Threatening them and being aggressive to them does nothing for your cause. In the end, it is going to cause a ripple effect in retail and hospitality with people now quitting because they don’t want to deal with people that are coming in and threatening them at their workplace,” Deere said.

He’s concerned about further confrontations between staff and those who don’t want to wear masks.

“My biggest fear is that it’s going to escalate to some point of violence and someone in some sort of retail or restaurant situation is going to get hurt,” Deere said.

Read more: Anti-mask rallies draw crowds in Calgary and Edmonton amid coronavirus pandemic

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Ernie Tsu is the owner of Trolley 5 Brewpub and is on the board of the Alberta Hospitality Association.

“We have had minor issues but we solve them before the guests even get into the building. If they are refusing to wear a mask, we are just not letting them in,” Tsu said.

He thinks the current anti-mask sentiment in restaurants can be traced to students returning to school with what he calls “mixed messages” about the need for social distancing.

“This messaging inside schools I think is now affecting the COVID fatigue with the public of when they go out, on their perception of masks and social distancing,” Tsu said.

“I think with the reopening of schools and how that messaging went out with social distancing and wearing masks, I think that’s where the issues are really arising right now. A lot of the public [is] taking that as, ‘Well, we don’t need to wear masks anymore.'”

Read more: COVID-19: Anti-mask rant from woman at Calgary Fabricland captured on video

The actions of a few have left staff on the front lines feeling more anxious.

“Usually, they are just saying, ‘Do you think I’m stupid? Do you think I am going to be like this sheep here wearing masks?’ It’s really upsetting,” said Julie Luong, who is a hostess at Modern Steak.

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“It makes me feel really sad and it makes me feel like we’re not being respected, especially now. Most of us who are working are putting ourselves at risk and the fact that other people are putting us at risk kind of upsets me even more.”

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