With the Colorado mask term ending, companies are now playing the mask police. This has not been easy


The CDC and the Colorado state government have once again eased restrictions on the pandemic. If you’re fully immunized, officials say you don’t need to wear a mask in most settings. This change also left masking policies to individual companies. And some are not happy with it.

For now, some companies are not changing anything. Burns Family Artisan Ales in Denver, for example, maintains its policy of requiring masks. Their tasting room, a rustic and cozy space with subdued light, is devoid of any furniture.

“Normally this would be an area that has lots of sofas, lots of super comfy chairs and rugs,” said co-owner Laura Worley.

Now it’s filled with rows of tall wooden barrels where they store their aged beer, and no customers are sitting in there. They had to make the switch so they could accommodate enough customers in a different space and get six feet between them when the pandemic first hit Colorado 14 months ago. Worley said his business had to rely on seating in their much larger storage room, to which the barrels belong.

It took a bit of redecorating – their storage room wasn’t meant for the public to see – and a lot of redevelopment, but Worley said the reception was pretty good.

“We had one person who hadn’t been out at all for 14 months, and said, ‘I’ve watched what you do online, and I feel really safe coming here, so I’m here. , ‘”Worley recalls.

Worley is co-owner of the brewery with her husband Wayne Burns. He said the two have not decided when to relax their mask requirements. .

“It’s an easier decision to consider – loosen mask restrictions – once we’re fully into summer with our garage doors open,” Burns said.

Colorado still sees some of the highest COVID infection rates in the country. But hospitalizations are decreasing, thanks to the number of people vaccinated.

So why are Burns and Worley keeping the mask requirement?

“I have type 1 diabetes,” Burns said.

Diabetes is a medical condition that puts people at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. Burns and Worley are the only employees in their small business, so they interact directly with customers. For now, they have said they will keep the masks for themselves and for their clients.

Hart Van Denburg / CPR News
People walk on Main Street in Grand Junction on August 8, 2020.

In Mesa County, companies requiring masks are not as well received.

Burns Family Artisan Ales might be having an easy time with the Mask Tenure, but that’s another story to Out West Books at Grand Junction.

Owner Marya Johnston said countless people pushed back on their mandatory mask policy for as long as it existed. She said she implemented masking in her store before the state did and some other stores around hers never encouraged masks to begin with.

“Sometimes I feel like it’s difficult, that it’s up to us to make these decisions,” said Johnston. “But from the very beginning, we kind of had to fly by the seat of our pants.”

She said she complied with the store’s mask requirement to protect customers who may not be vaccinated and those who are immunocompromised. But she said that could change if enforcement becomes too much for her and her staff to handle.

“We all agreed that we would probably go until June 1 to reassess,” she said. “Are we getting too much abuse from the public?”

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite
Rosa Castruita chops onions behind the counter at Albina by the Sea inside the Milk Market in downtown Denver. May 18, 2021.

Some customers are happy that the masks are off, but the staff members don’t feel the same way.

In downtown Denver, there is a colorful, open cafeteria-style space made up of several restaurants and bars called the Milk market. One day last week, most people wore masks when they went for a walk, trying to decide what to eat for lunch. Others were maskless when enjoying a meal or drink.

Among them, Jeremy Wilson, who lives in Colorado Springs. His blue medical mask was hidden under his chin as he sipped his coffee and scrolled through his cell phone. He, for his part, is happy that the masks are coming off.

“I think it’s the right decision. I think people are moving forward in the country, ”Wilson said. “I think sometimes common sense is a little better than the actual science behind it.”

He is also happy that the government is no longer putting the spotlight.

“I think it’s kind of like ‘No shirt, no shoes, no service’,” he said. “Leave it up to the organization itself to make that call and stop monitoring us.”

But the man who owns the very establishment that Wilson is in feels the opposite. Denver restaurateur Frank Bonanno is far from happy with the new tenure – or the lack of it.

“We are understaffed. We run out of everything and now we all of a sudden have to be the police and tell people what they can and can’t do? Said Bonanno. “I think this is a terrible disservice for small businesses.”

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite
Restaurateur Frank Bonanno can be found inside The Stranded Pilgrim pub in his Milk Market complex at the Dairy Block in downtown Denver. May 18, 2021.

Bonanno has several restaurants around the city. And he says he maintains mask restrictions on everyone, primarily for the comfort and safety of his staff. He’s not a fan of Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s decision to end the mask’s tenure. Bonanno said leaving the reinforcement of the mask to every business owner creates confusion, stress, and potential for angry customers.

“Now are we the bad guys because we’re trying to monitor our staff?” We just want cohesion between what it is, ”he said. “It’s a pandemic. Governs. This is why you were elected.

Standing inside the Milk Market, customer Mariana Gallegos wore a black surgical mask while waiting for her take-out order. She said the ever-changing guidelines are a lot to follow.

“I think it’s a bit confusing because you don’t know who’s vaccinated and who isn’t. And I think that can lead to a lot of confusion about when you should and shouldn’t wear a mask, ”she said. “I’m going to keep wearing my mask for a while, I think.

Gallegos said she feels safe these days, especially since being fully immunized in February, but wanted to continue wearing a mask with others in mind.

Kevin J. Beaty / Denverite
Silvia Gonzalez works the ice cream counter in Cornicello at the Milk Market in downtown Denver. May 18, 2021.

“If someone comes in and wears a mask, I put on my mask. This has been my guide.

For businesses that existed before the pandemic, they dust off counters and un-stack chairs after a year of non-use. But there were also businesses that opened during this time. One of them is Horror bar on Colfax Avenue in Denver. It’s been open for 10 weeks and owner Nathan Szklarski says the new rules are overwhelming.

“I don’t mean to say that we are having more difficulty, but we certainly have nowhere to go back. You know what I mean? “Szklarski said.” It’s not like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re just going to open it up like before,’ because we weren’t there before.

The bar’s success has grown steadily for weeks, attracting fans of the horror genre to come watch the evening’s film and soak up cocktails inspired by famous horror films. At first it was sustainable, but once the Polis government announced the easing of restrictions, people jumped into the business in droves. And Szklarski decided to embrace it and eliminate the need for masks and social distancing.

“Now with the limited restrictions – well, no restrictions for us – it’s kind of free for everyone,” he said.

Szklarski says he hasn’t really thought about what it would be like once things get back to normal, and now he’s playing catching up. He spends time training new recruits and ordering more furniture.

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