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Businesses handed warning letters over mask mandate

"This is not the America we should be in right now" business owners struggle over county mandates
Posted at 6:20 PM, Nov 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 14:42:49-05

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — It’s a sign on the door at Duffs Eastern Hills that owner Greg Duell says led Erie County Health Sanitarians to drop off a letter, stating the sign was not in compliance with the Erie County mask mandate.

The sign reads, “Notice: By Erie County DOH mandate, face masks are required for entry.”

But below it, another sign reads, “We are not against masks, we are not against vaccines. We will not discriminate! It’s your right to choose to mask or vaccinate. Please be patient with our staff as we are being threatened with fines to comply.”

“Phase I is where it starts, and I just cannot stand for discrimination in my workplace or business,” Duell said.

Duell says the letter states he is in violation of the Erie County mask mandate by posting the sign. The mandate, announced last week requires masks in all public indoor spaces.

“The letter that I got said that I was not compliant because I have a sign on my door. There was no allegation that people were not complying.”

He’s not the only local business who got a letter over the holiday weekend.

This letter was hand delivered to another local business who did not want us to use its name. The letter saying it too was not in compliance with the mask mandate.

The business owner says Erie County Health Sanitarians, accompanied by Erie County Sheriff’s Deputies dropped it off over the weekend saying the next stop will be a $10,000 fine.

The Erie County Sheriff's Office says:

"The Erie County Sheriff’s Office continues its mission from the start of the pandemic – providing security for employees of the county’s health department, and they are not enforcing health department mandates.

Deputies are providing security for health sanitarians as they would for Child Protective Services and other county employees.

The Sheriff’s Office has a duty to protect the assets and employees of the county."

Duell says for his business, policing the masks puts his employees at risk.

“It put us at odds with our patrons and I can’t put my employees at risk from people who just don’t wanna comply,” he said.

He and other small business owners tell me they are extremely worried about what could be coming, a phase II vaccination mandate that he says goes against everything he stands for as an American and business owner.

“I will fight this with every fiber in my being,” he said. “That phase II mandate just cannot happen.”

I asked the ECDOH how many citations have been handed down and it says zero.

The department of health says:

“Our department is sending letters/emails to facilities, and going out to visit businesses and facilities, to provide educational outreach to let facility managers know about their obligations under the mask mandate.”

“We need to find a different solution that does not discriminate,” Duell said. “This is not the America we should be in right now.”

“I am not a political activist, I am not a freedom fighter and I am not a self-righteous guy. I am an advocate for my employees, an advocate for my patrons and an advocate for my industry,” he said.