GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Local businesses say the lifting of the face mask requirements puts them in an uncertain situation.
“As it stands right now, we either have to continue to confront people based on what our position is at the restaurants, which to be clear we haven’t fully fledged out yet, or we have to take people’s word for it,” said Chris Funaro, director of operations for All In Hospitality.
The group owns four restaurants along Wealthy Street, including Donkey Taqueria and Royals.
Funaro says while All In Hospitality wants to follow the new guidelines, they are worried. Their primary concern is whether the state will help businesses enforce masking unvaccinated customers.
The support, Funero says, is needed because All In Hospitality and other businesses do not want to put their staff at risk if a customer gets upset for businesses asking if they got the shot.
According to the updated order, business owners must make a “good-faith effort,” which may include posting a sign notifying people that wearing a mask is required unless they fall into a specified exception, asking patrons not wearing masks whether they fall into a specified exception, requiring face masks of all patrons and employees, or any other policy designed to ensure compliance with current guidelines.
“We want to make sure our staff feels safe and we want to make sure our guests, who have been dining with us this entire time in different ways—takeout, outdoors, indoors, etc.—also feel safe,” said Funero. “We’re going to continue to err on the side of caution until the gray area that we’re sort of working in right now is black and white.”
Ramzy Kader, who owns Char and Gita Pita in Grand Rapids, says getting customers to comply with mask mandates has been an issue throughout the pandemic for his business and the businesses owned by his family members.
“We do get customers who walk in without masks,” said Kader. “In the beginning it was kind of a challenge because a lot of people were like almost fighting us.”
Starting Saturday, his restaurants plan to follow the new guidance. He says they will not ask customers if they’ve been vaccinated, but rather work on an honor system.
“We didn’t want to argue with people, give them their freedom,” said Kader. “As long as we’re wearing masks and we’re protected and we keep our places sanitized at all times.”
“Just be kind to our employees and be respectful to the decisions of all of our business owners who have just endured such an amazing amount of stress over the last few months,” said Funar.