Masks now mandatory: Edmonton bylaw starts Saturday

·3 min read

If there's one sector in Edmonton that doesn't need much guidance on Edmonton's new face covering bylaw, it's small business.

Several retailers have already made it a rule for all staff and customers to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while inside the store.

Edmonton's new bylaw takes effect Saturday, nearly two months after Knifewear and Kent of Inglewood on Whyte Avenue made face coverings mandatory.

Since June 8, everyone who enters the two stores must wear a covering, said manager Kristopher Armitage, chair of the Old Strathcona Business Association.

"We started preparing for this the minute we opened," Armitage said. "We've been 100 per cent mask in store since the very beginning."

Customers coming in without a covering are given a disposable mask, he said, and signs outside the shop explain the safety reasons for wearing masks.

He said there are a few people who give them a hard time about their policy.

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"There is the odd person who is very anti-mask, that will see our signage and feels they need to stick their head in and tell us that we're fascists or something along that line."

In contrast to some fierce opposition to the bylaw, Armitage said his business owner and other stores are relieved by council's decision earlier this week to approve the bylaw.

"We've just really happy that the city is backing us up on that," he said, calling the decision the "better safe than sorry," scenario.

Other retailers have been incorporating mask wearing as well, Armitage noted, and the business association is helping guide them when needed.

The city launched a new webpage Friday explaining the reasons for the bylaw.

"It is a quick, easy and effective way to protect each other," the site says, while outlining exceptions and clarifications.

"Business owners and operators will not be responsible for enforcement and can choose whether to deny service to those who do not comply with the bylaw."

The site includes resources such as printable posters.

'It's the same as no shirt, no shoes, no service,' - Todd Janes, Stony Plain Road and Area Business Assn.

Todd Janes, executive director of Stony Plain Road and Area Business Association, said small and medium-size companies are relieved the city is taking responsibility for the issue.

"It affords an opportunity for business owners to concentrate on doing what they need to do, which is having the best service and running their business to the best of their capabilities."

While some owners and staff worry about dealing with customers unwilling to follow the rule, generally the mask requirement will give them and customers a level of comfort and safety, which may bring back business, Janes said.

Janes said he considers wearing a mask a matter of manners.

"It's the same as no shirt, no shoes, no service," Janes said. "It's a very non-offensive activity that people can do to protect vulnerable people and to protect each other."

Homemade/store bought masks

Some businesses are benefiting from a recent trend of people making their own.

Patrick O'Shaughnessy, manager at Marshall Fabrics in the city's south side, told CBC News he's seeing 25 per cent more customers with most of them buying material to make masks.

"It's definitely our number one seller by far," O'Shaughnessy said.

Fabric with designs are trendy, he added, featuring anything from flamingos to hockey sticks, with the wildly-popular Baby Yoda character a bestseller.

"We sold right out of it right away, 'cause obviously that's cool and new."

Besides the plethora of online options and pharmacies, masks are available at several local shops and farmers markets.

They come in various styles and range from $7 to $20.

This weekend, city bylaw and peace officers will be tasked with raising awareness among the general public, while on their regular patrols, focusing on high-use areas like LRT platforms, transit centres, buses and city-owned-and-operated facilities, amenities and attractions.

They will also patrol shopping malls and other retail locations.