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Local businesses react to Erie County's reinstated mask mandate

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Posted at 11:28 PM, Nov 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-22 23:33:13-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Local businesses owners are divided about Erie County's new mask mandate. The mandate goes into effect Tuesday, November 23 at 6 AM for all public, indoor spaces.

“It’s the right to choose,” owner of Santora’s Pizza Pub and Grille Restaurants, Paul Santora said. “It’s our first amendment right.”

“It’s all about community,” owner of Ilio DiPaolo's, Dennis DiPaolo said. “If we can’t feel safe going out, no one is going to go out.”

Right now, only the mask mandate goes into effect. There are four planned phases to help decrease positivity rates in the county:

  1. Mask mandate
  2. Vaccine mandate
  3. Capacity restrictions
  4. Shutdowns

The county will only move on to the next phase if the current one does not help decrease the positivity rate.
DiPaolo said mask mandates are a best-case scenario.

“Nightmares of what we were last year,” DiPaolo said. “Totally closed down, restaurants are decorated and no customers.”

DiPaolo says the mandate won’t change the dining experience.

“Sit down enjoy dinner, sit at the bar enjoy a drink, you don’t need a mask on,” DiPaolo said. “But if you’re walking, you’re wearing”

But Santora said people should be able to decide whether they wear a mask.

“We understand there’s people out there who aren’t doing well,” Santora said. “We get that, but people have rights.”

Santora said more mandates could dampen the holiday spirit and hurt businesses.

“This is going to be like the stake in the heart that people will never be able to recover from,” Santora said.

DiPaolo said he hopes the mask mandate helps decrease positivity rates to avoid next steps, which include a vaccine requirement for entry and capacity limits.

“Many people cannot afford to go another December without business,” DiPaolo said.

Business owners agree that staying open is a priority. But some say mandates could create additional strain for businesses and employees.

“You’re asking an individual, an employee, to not let a customer come into your location,” Santora said.

Both Tops and Wegmans issued statements regarding the mandate.

Tops:

As we have done in the past, Tops will continue to comply with whatever mandates are in place. Our employees have been required to wear masks in our stores since August 2021.

Wegmans:

After reviewing the updated guidance from the CDC and state and local health departments, we strongly encourage all customers, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a face mask while shopping with us. Where mandated at the state or local level, customers are required to wear a face mask. All employees are required to wear a face mask in our stores.