British Columbia

As mask-wearing becomes optional, stores and customers adapt to patchwork of policy

Without the backing of a provincial mandate, a liquor store manager says making masks mandatory has been a significant challenge, with several customers becoming aggressive toward staff.

Liquor store manager says staff are experiencing more confrontations about masks since rules were eased July 1

Barb Whyte, manager at Bimini's Liquor Store, changed her mask policy after staff faced more aggression from people not wanting to wear masks over the weekend. (Isabelle Raghem/CBC )

A Vancouver liquor store manager has changed her mask policy from "mandatory" to "highly recommended" after staff reported an increase in aggressive confrontations with customers who refused to wear them over the weekend.

Barb Whyte initially kept the store's mandatory mask policy in place, but decided to change it Monday because of added pressure on employees since B.C. lifted its mandate July 1.

"Without the backup of a mandatory [mandate], it's just not worth the fight," said Whyte, who manages two liquor stores in Vancouver, including Bimini's in Kitsilano. 

"I personally would have liked to have it mandatory a little bit longer."

Down the street at Kitsilano's In Again Fashion, owner Brooke Floyd feels comfortable with the lifted mandate and no longer wears a mask while working at the consignment store. She won't be asking customers to wear masks. 

"I'm not wearing a mask. I've been fully vaccinated so I have no problem with it, with anybody that comes in here," she said.

But some of her staff feel differently, which is why she posted a note at the entrance asking customers who don't want to wear a mask to inquire with staff first.

Brooke Floyd, owner of In Again Fashion, says she no longer wears a face shield or mask since she is fully vaccinated. (Shawn Foss/CBC)

"I left it up to the employees," said Floyd. "I left a note for them saying it's up to you to decide if you'd like them to wear the mask."

Moe Suzuki works at La Ruota Pizza, where masks are mandatory only for staff. She's noticed most customers have continued to wear a mask, but not all of them. 

"I feel a little uncomfortable," she said. "[I got] used to everyone wearing a mask."

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry suggested on June 29 that people should still wear masks in some indoor situations once the mandate had been lifted. 

"It is important for us to continue to wear masks in those indoor settings where we're around people we don't know and when we're not fully protected [by vaccines]," Henry said during a news conference.

She added that some people would feel comfortable continuing to wear masks and their choice should be respected.

The World Health Organization also urged people to continue wearing masks as it discussed the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant during a June 25 news conference.

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