Sudbury restaurant owner fed up with customers who don't want to wear a mask
'They're just walking straight into people's faces and demanding to be served without a mask'
Chuck Barbeau says he's learned a lot about the importance of hard work over the 29 years he's spent in the restaurant industry.
But the Sudbury restaurateur said the ongoing pandemic has made running his business, with his brother Pete, a bit of an uphill climb.
Their business, Di Gusto Italian Restaurant on Regent Street, is beginning to recover from the pandemic's financial challenges, but Barbeau said he's now forced to deal with customers who don't want to wear masks.
It's been putting him and his staff into some uncomfortable situations, he said.
'They don't feel safe'
"We talk to our staff constantly, we talk to our customers and it's unanimous among our customers, among our staff," Barbeau said, "They don't feel safe with people walking in without a mask."
He said while the majority of customers are happy to comply with the COVID-19 public health directives, like face masks, it's taxing having to manage potentially turbulent customers who resist the new guidelines. The confrontations are especially difficult on younger staff, he said.
"They're just walking straight into people's faces and demanding to be served without a mask," he said, "It's difficult, you know, when you have a situation like that ... what is a 16 year old supposed to do? And you can't have an owner at the door all day."
"We are not here to get abused by people and to have to listen to people and their rants about whatever their beliefs are. This is not a place for it."
Barbeau said some customers who have refused to wear masks while at the restaurant have even turned to Google, to post negative reviews of the business, in which some people have indulged in lengthy rants about the restaurant's mask policy.
"They talk about government policy," Barbeau said, describing some of the reviews.
"Of course, I don't make government policy. They should take the argument up with the proper authorities," he said. "We're just following medical advice, and not just advice but rules. They're the ones that dictate the rules and that's what we're following."
The situation has become so frustrating that the brothers took to the business's Facebook page to address their customers.
'Our staff needs to be protected'
"Should customers not want to wear a mask at the restaurant," the Facebook post read, "they are welcome to order takeout. However, anyone who does not want to wear a mask will not be welcome on the premises."
The business's Facebook account has since been taken down as a result of negative comments.
"Our staff needs to be protected, they've asked us to protect them and not only protect them but protect their families."
"We wear these masks all day long. Do I like wearing a mask? No. Nobody here likes wearing a mask," Barbeau said, "We want to do what we can to be part of the answer."
Sudbury Public Health & Districts says masks are the most effective way of preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, sometimes, due to medical conditions not everyone can wear a mask.
Officials with the health unit say businesses must operate on good faith. They say it's up to business owners to educate their customers and maintain their individual COVID-19 policies.