Columbia businesses don't have to refuse service to unmasked customers

4 weeks 1 day 15 hours ago Monday, July 13 2020 Jul 13, 2020 Monday, July 13, 2020 7:19:00 PM CDT July 13, 2020 in News
By: Annabel Thorpe, KOMU 8 Reporter

COLUMBIA—About 20 people filed complaints about other individuals or businesses not following the mask ordinance this weekend, according to the Columbia/Boone County Health Department.

“It’s unfortunate that we heard 20 complaints, but I also realize it could have been very much worse than that,” Scott Clardy, assistant director of Columbia/Boone County Health Department said.

Complaints go to the city’s contact center. The health department then looks into the complaints, and it will usually go one of two ways. Either the department calls the non-complying person and says to follow the rules more closely. Or, if it’s a repeated offense by the same person or business, the health department will choose to try to fine them.

Fining involves the health department summoning the offender and going to municipal court.

The fine for not complying with the mask ordinance is $15 for individuals and $100 for businesses.

None of the estimated 20 complaints have turned into a fine, and the city hopes to rely on educating people instead of trying to fine people.

“If we see a pattern of those coming from the same business or same individual then we are more likely to take further action,” Clardy said.

Enforcement is largely on complaints and the health department. Under the mask ordinance, businesses are not required to turn people away who refuse to wear a mask.

“What we are asking businesses to do is just make a good faith effort to be in compliance with the ordinance,” Clardy said. “Things like put a sign on the door. If you see somebody without a mask on, ask them to put a mask on.”

Last week the Columbia Mall released a newsletter to its employees saying the mall will not refuse service to people who refuse to wear a mask.

“We’re sticking with the ordinance,” Columbia Mall general manager Russel Strodtman said. “We’re not attorneys. We’re not the City of Columbia. We’re not health department experts. So we follow the ordinance to what’s in writing. If it’s not in the ordinance, we’re not going to do it unless we are instructed differently.”

Strodtman said he will support individual stores’ decisions to refuse service when following their store's policy. However, the mall will not ask those not wearing masks to leave.

The Columbia Chamber of Commerce president Matt McCormick said the mask policy is another step businesses need to make customers aware of for everyone’s safety.

“The main thing they are having to take responsibility is keeping a safe and secure workplace for their employees, for their customers, and for anyone who may visit their place,” McCormick said.

Under the ordinance, stores are required to provide employees masks. The Columbia Mall also provides masks to customers if they need one. Strodtman said they have provided around 4,000 to 5,000 masks so far.

Anyone can file a complaint against those not wearing masks in required situations by calling 874-CITY or emailing city@como.gov. The health department said the more information, like photos, someone can share—the better.

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