For Yukon store owners, end to mandatory masking brings mixed reactions

In two weeks, Yukoners will no longer have to wear a mask indoors, but businesses can still ask their customers to mask up. It's one of the COVID restrictions being lifted by the Yukon government. One store owner says that puts her in a difficult situation.

'The thought of now engaging in a new kind of conflict is not one that interests me,' says one

Unorthodox Yukon is a shop that sells northern products on Main Street in Whitehorse. (Submitted by Douma Alwarid)

When Douma Alwarid heard the Yukon government would ease COVID-19 restrictions, she was torn between excitement and fear.

On Wednesday, the government announced —among other things— that masks will no longer be required in public spaces as of August 4. But businesses are still allowed to ask their customers to wear a mask inside.

Alwarid, who owns the Whitehorse gift shop Unorthodox Yukon says this puts her in a difficult position. 

"People are going to judge us if we let people in without masks," said Alwarid. 

"People are going to judge us if we ask people to wear a mask. There's no win-win ever."

Douma Alwarid owns Unorthodox Yukon, a Whitehorse shop that sells northern products. She says it's been very difficult to enforce mask-wearing in her store this past year. (Submitted by Douma Alwarid)

Alwarid says she's already suffered from many abusive customers this year who refused to follow public health measures in her store. The abuse got so bad at some point, she considered selling her business.

"We had one close-to-physical altercation in the middle of my beautiful store, all over just asking people to do basic things like sanitize their hands and wear their masks," said Alwarid.

Although many of Alwarid's employees are concerned about the spread of COVID-19, she worries she will face backlash from customers if she asks them to wear a mask when it's no longer mandatory. 

"It was a hard year and a half through COVID of enforcing [rules], the stress, the anger from customers," said Alwarid. "The thought of now engaging in a new kind of conflict is not one that interests me."

Ultimately, Alwarid will not be asking customers to mask up in her store. Her employees, however, will continue wearing masks in store for the next few months.  

Alwarid says despite her nervousness, she is excited to see people's smiles again. 

Unorthodox Yukon is a Whitehorse gift shop. (Submitted by Douma Alwarid)

One grocer welcomes lifting restrictions

Mark Wykes, the owner of Wykes' Your Independent Grocer in Whitehorse, is glad to see masks go.

"We're not going to make people wear masks if it's not required," says Wykes. "And my personal opinion is let's carry on. It's time to go."

Wykes notes that the Yukon is following the lead of other Canadian jurisdictions that have already lifted many pandemic restrictions. Masks are no longer required in indoor public spaces in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

Some of Wykes' employees have told him they will continue wearing a mask at work, although he will not require it.

"Now it's very routine, even for myself, wearing a mask all day, every day," said Wykes. "I hate to say it feels normal, but it almost feels different when you take it off in the business. I'm looking forward to having them off."


Maya is a reporter with CBC Yukon. She previously worked for CBC Montreal and CBC Science. Connect with her on Twitter at @MayaAidelbaum. Story tips welcome:


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