With no state mask mandate, it’s decision time for businesses

By: - April 16, 2021 3:59 pm
Mask mandate sign in New Orleans

For many New Hampshire communities and businesses, mask mandates will remain in place. (Photo of New Orleans French Quarter, Sean Gardner | Getty Images)

This story was updated April 19, 2021 at 10:45 a.m. 

Shortly after Gov. Chris Sununu announced the end of the state’s mask mandate, The Common Man headquarters announced on Facebook and Twitter and in an email that masks will still be required for staff and diners at its 17 restaurants in New Hampshire.

“I send out marketing blasts about events and normally I don’t get a reply,” said Communications Director Erica Murphy. “We had an overwhelming response from people supporting us and thanking us. They said that it made them feel safe and encouraged to come dine with us.”

Sununu’s decision to end the state’s mask mandate Friday and leave mask mandate decisions to individuals, private businesses, and local municipalities drew quick and divided reactions. Now that attention is on private business owners as they decide whether to continue their existing mask mandates for staff, customers, or both.

Mask mandate flier
The Common Man restaurants in New Hampshire will still require masks. (Courtesy)

Walmart issued a statement saying masks will remain a requirement for staff and customers at all Walmart and Sam’s locations. 

“We serve millions of Americans every week and believe our policy of requiring associates and customers to wear masks in our stores has helped protect them during the pandemic,” it said. The statement said staff will notify a store “health ambassador” if a customer declines to wear a face covering, in hopes of finding a solution.

Hannaford, which has 10 New Hampshire locations, tweeted a response to a media inquiry, saying “We require all customers who are medically able to wear a mask to do so while shopping in our stores. In those locations where the medical exemption has been eliminated by law, all customers must wear masks while in our stores.”

Market Basket, which has 28 stores in the state, did not return multiple requests for comment.

Some local stores and restaurants announced their mandate within a few hours of Sununu’s announcement – even if they are in a city or town with a local mask mandate. Crust and Crumb of Concord, which has a mandate, was one. “Hey folks, until the public health experts say otherwise, we will continue to require masks at The Crust and Crumb,” its Facebook page said. Employee Mallory Higgins said the store will continue to provide free disposable face masks, sell cloth masks, and “assist” customers who decline a mask out of the bakery. 

Scott Logan, owner of Logan’s Run restaurant and sports bar in Hampton, hopes he’s found a compromise by requiring staff but not customers to wear masks. He made the decision after seeing customers return once they were vaccinated. 

“I don’t want to discourage people from coming,” Logan said, noting that partitions between tables will remain and sanitizing policies aren’t changing. “Based on what customers tell me and what I’ve seen this past year, I think most people will appreciate it. There’s going to be a percentage that are not going to agree with them, but that’s the hard part of owning your own business.” 

 

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.

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