By: Kimberly Houghton, New Hampshire Union Leader
Representatives from the retail, restaurant and grocery industries are voicing opposition to a proposal in Nashua that would require businesses to enforce that customers wear face masks into their establishments.
“This is going on all over the country. Our national associations and retail leaders are adamant that retailers shouldn’t be policing this,” Nancy Kyle, president of the New Hampshire Retail Association, said Thursday.
This week, the Nashua Board of Aldermen was presented with a proposed amendment to its existing mask ordinance that was approved in May and already requires customers to wear face masks while visiting stores, restaurants and other business establishments in Nashua.
The new proposal, if adopted by aldermen, states that “no business and no employee of any business shall provide goods or services to any person not complying with face covering requirements … no business and no employee of any business shall permit a person to remain on its premises in violation of these requirements.”
“In some instances these would be 16-year-old kids who are being asked to enforce this,” said Kyle, stressing confrontations about mask use have already led to verbal and physical altercations throughout the nation.
John Dumais, president of the New Hampshire Grocers Association, agreed. He has heard from several members around the state who are worried that if this amended ordinance is approved in Nashua, that other communities will attempt to do the same.
There has already been reports of some strong language and shouting from belligerent customers toward teen grocery store workers who are asking them to wear masks into businesses, according to Dumais.
“They get intimidated very quickly, and that is unfortunate because they are already working extra hard to keep things sanitized in the store,” he said. “We are there to serve the customer and not to enforce masks.”
In most of these situations, Dumais said the employee is not trained for confrontational situations. Grocery store workers have no problem posting signs that face masks are required, or even handing out free masks if they can afford them, but if a customer refuses to wear one, Dumais said it is not the employee’s responsibility to make sure they do.
“This puts another burden on these businesses that are already struggling to survive,” said Mike Somers, CEO of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association.
While many businesses are requiring that masks be worn, Somers said there really isn’t much that can be done if someone isn’t in compliance, except to ask kindly that they put on a mask.
Some restaurant employees throughout New Hampshire have already quit their jobs and left in tears because it is a difficult situation when a hostess asks someone to follow the requirements and they refuse, explaining it places a lot of pressure on personnel that are not trained to handle it.
Somers has already spoken with some Nashua businesses about the proposal, and he admits there is some angst surrounding the situation.
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