Edmonton businesses worry about enforcing mask rules

· The Pulse
in the Business Roundup

Local businesses prepared for the return of the city-wide mask mandate by reminding patrons that rules will be enforced as of Sept. 3, but they also voiced concerns about customer reactions to the latest COVID-19 restrictions.

City council's 9-2 decision to reinstate the masking rules that were lifted July 1 applies to all indoor areas accessible by the public including retail stores, entertainment venues, restaurants, and recreation facilities.

Edmonton Independent Hospitality Community co-chair Kris Harvey said operators are seeing increasing pushback from guests who will now face a potential $100 fine. "It's super, super challenging and a lot of us in the hospitality industry are on board with saying yes, there are further measures that need to be in place so we are able to have safe environments, but we do need to make sure that we're not the ones holding all the responsibility to enforce it, police it and putting our staff and our businesses at risk," he told the Edmonton Journal.

The Old Strathcona Business Association asked visitors to the area to be patient with staff getting up to speed on changes, while West Edmonton Mall updated its webpage to caution that restrictions extend to washrooms and only allow "brief removal of mask or face covering when sipping a beverage or eating, engaging in water activities or physical exercise, and for children age two and under."

Two people wearing masks at West Edmonton Mall. West Edmonton Mall patrons can expect masking rules to be enforced. (West Edmonton Mall)

Live performers must be masked "unless in an employee-only area, like a stage, and have a barrier in place between them and the audience and remain distanced from one another." Masks will not be required at Edmonton Elks games in the outdoor seating bowl at Commonwealth Stadium.

The authority of businesses to enforce mask rules was supported by the Alberta Human Rights Commission's dismissal of complaints from two men who claimed they were discriminated against when they didn't wear masks at Edmonton stores last fall, CBC Edmonton reported.

The bylaw will be in effect until Dec. 31 unless repealed by city council or the active case rate drops to under 100 per 100,000 people for 10 consecutive days.

Correction: The story has been corrected to reflect a 9-2 vote to reinstate the city-wide mask mandate.