Vancouver restaurant scraps masks for customers due to conflict

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A popular Vancouver restaurant has done away with its mask policy, saying it’s received too much pushback, even when face coverings were mandated by the province.

Mask-use in B.C. went from “mandatory” to “recommended” as of July 1. However, businesses are still able to require face coverings for customers and staff if they want to.

While Bon’s Off Broadway had initially planned to continue its mask mandate for patrons and staff, it recently scaled those requirements back to only apply to staff.

“I know a lot of people who have been told to wear a mask were the ones that were super emotional and aggressive about the mask wearing, and their rights and all that. So we’re not actually asking people to wear masks (anymore),” said Tony Wong, manager of the popular breakfast joint.

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“Not even just 10 steps from the door to their table, they would cause a scene, be really forceful, be like it’s their constitutional rights — all these speeches they would do just so they wouldn’t have to wear a mask. It caused quite a safety matter for us and our staff.”

While he’d like to keep the mask policy in place for everyone coming into the restaurant, Wong says the aggression and tension has been too much to deal with.

And while he says many people have pushed back on the mask policy, Wong notes much of the struggle has come from regulars.

“Try telling your customers of 30 years that they have to follow a set of rules. You know that saying, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? I think throughout this pandemic, we’ve lost a lot of our longtime customers because of the protocols and rules,” Wong told NEWS 1130.

However, he says in some cases, regulars have come to understand the rationale behind the regulations, and have come back.

Wong admits the past year has been difficult on his business and staff. From restrictions on group sizes to restaurants being shuttered for all-but-takeout for months earlier this year, he says business has been slow.

“This has been going on for so long. I think everyone’s just tired of it. And a couple of restrictions lifted, I think it did wonders,” he explained. “Everyday, everyone’s more happy.”

He says he feels customers are even more receptive to other COVID-19 measures, now that some restrictions have eased.

Related video: Masks not mandatory as B.C. eases restrictions

Bon’s is known for its cheap breakfast, which can cost as little as $2.95. That means the restaurant relies on quick turnover to make a profit.

With business picking up since B.C. entered the third phase of its plan to ease COVID-19 restrictions, Wong says he’s hopeful that is a sign of things to come.

“People that never wanted to wear masks, they all came back,” he said of this weekend — the first since the easing of the mask mandate. “They even asked me if I want them to wear one … Everyone’s so much happier, that they would even follow the arrows and follow all the other restrictions in the place just because they don’t have to wear masks.”

Businesses that have kept mask mandate say it’s hard to enforce

Meanwhile, businesses choosing to keep their mask policy in place say they’ve been put in a tough spot.

“It’s very, very tricky for a small business because we are finally getting our businesses back. So I think it’s put us … in an awkward position, with how province announced it. I think it’s way too early,” Durriya Reyhan, owner of Fine Finds Boutique in Yaletown said.

She says keeping the mask policy in place is about keeping her staff safe.

“Not all the employees are fully vaccinated. And even after you are fully vaccinated, you still have like to wear a mask and be very careful for next few weeks. The employee safety is very important and we came this far so maybe we should wait until we all get vaccinated,” she explained.

However she says it’s a struggle to enforce the policy without the backing of the province.

“It’s very hard for us to tell customers that we are still requiring mask in the store because not everyone wants to wear it. So if we are all are on the same page and [wait] a little bit longer until most of the population get fully vaccinated, that would be good.”

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