Downtown Phoenix restaurants are applying their own mask policies after the state passed a bill exempting businesses from enforcing a mask mandate.
Gov. Doug Ducey approved HB 2770 on April 9 that said “a business in this state is not required to enforce on its premises a mask mandate that is established by this state, a city, town or county or any other jurisdiction of this state,”
After the bill was passed, restaurants in downtown Phoenix decided on different mask policies for their workers and customers.
Krystal Aguilera has worked at Fair Trade Cafe for four years and said that the cafe closed for six months during the pandemic and is open again. Since then, the business still requires employees to wear masks, but it is now optional for customers.
“We wear a mask in respect for everybody who would prefer us to wear masks because in that same way it doesn’t affect the people who decide not to wear one,” Aguilera said. “We’ve noticed that most customers don’t wear a mask now, but there’s every other customer that does and we still want to keep that same respect,”
Aguilera added she agrees with the mask policy.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Aguilera said. “I know at the end of the day it’s just protecting me,”
When walking into the entrance of Songbird Coffee & Tea House, there is a sign that says masks are encouraged. Owner Erin Westgate talked about the mask policy she gave to her workers and customers.
“All of our workers are required to wear masks when they’re around customers and during their shift. For customers, we request that they wear it but it’s not mandatory,” Westgate said.
Westgate expressed why she implemented the policy.
“I want everyone to be safe. For our staff, all of us are vaccinated but there’s still transmission. We want to set an example for what we would like our customers to do,” Westgate said.
Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana has a different policy from the other restaurants and does not require staff or customers to wear masks. Manager Jamie Naquin said the decision was made after the exempted mask mandate bill was passed.
“Once the mandate was lifted, we took away the mask policy for our guests and for our staff. We figured people were able to make their own choices on how they wanted to proceed and be safe,” Naquin said. “Our guests know our staff doesn’t wear masks. So, if that makes them uncomfortable, there’s still plenty of places that are requiring it,”
Ducey stated in his letter that even though there was never a statewide mask mandate during the peak of the pandemic, over 90% of residents in Arizona live in a jurisdiction that implemented a mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19. He also said that bigger cities did not impose a mask mandate and left businesses to decide what mask policy to follow.
“I understand the concern and heartache this caused for many of these businesses and I am grateful that the sponsor introduced this bill to address that very issue,” Ducey said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maricopa County has the highest community transmission rate in Arizona and suggests that everyone in the community should wear a mask in public indoor settings. As of Nov.1, 50.1% of the County’s population is fully vaccinated and about 58% has at least one dose.
Because of the high transmission, Westgate said there needs to be a higher rate of vaccinations.
“It’s not over. There are still people dying,” Westgate said. “People need to get vaccinated. If everybody did, then we wouldn’t have as many memorial services. We just want to err on the side of caution,”