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With California mask mandate extended, some local businesses struggle to keep customers in compliance

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Angel Russell
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A sign on the outside of Planet Fitness in Arroyo Grande pleads for people to wear a mask so the business doesn’t get shut down.

Due to the steep rise of COVID-19 cases in California, the state has extended its indoor mask mandate through at least Feb. 15 — but some counties including, San Luis Obispo, have no expiration date on their own mandates.

A sign on the outside of Planet Fitness in Arroyo Grande pleads for people to wear a mask so the business doesn’t get shut down. Employees at the gym say it's a daily struggle asking people to keep their mask on, and it often leads to arguments.

Over in Grover Beach, a restaurant owner who did not want to give out his name or business said he’s never worn a mask, and doesn’t ask his customers to either. He said he's lost 75 percent of business because of it, and has been battling the city due to ongoing non-compliance complaints. But he still says he’s going to fight the mask mandate due to his personal beliefs.

City Manager Matt Bronson said he was surprised to hear a restaurant owner say that.

" We don’t currently have any pending compliance issues with any businesses," Bronson said. " And we haven’t gotten complaints in a while."

Bronson said when complaints do come in, the city works with the business to ensure they are in compliance.

"Our businesses have been very mindful overall of public health orders as we seek to keep our community safe," Bronson said.

Michelle Shoresman with SLO County Public Health said when the mask mandate will end will really depend on what they are seeing with the virus —and right now, caseload is surging.

“We all understand the frustration of dealing with masks, we are all tired of wearing masks," Shoresman said. "But, it really is in the best interest of the community if people do, because we know that masking helps.”

Shoresman said the county is still following up on complaints if a business is not following the mandate.

“On some rare occasions, there are direct orders that come from the health officer or from the code enforcement operations," Shoresman said. "There can be fines.”

But it’s on the individual businesses to try to keep customers in compliance.

At Big Sky Cafe in San Luis Obispo, owner Greg Holt said he hasn’t had a big problem with trying to get customers to wear a mask.

“If someone argues it, we use my personal experience to say listen, it’s not political," Holt said. "I tell them I lost my mom in February to COVID.”

Holt said after losing his mom Barbara due to the virus, he doesn’t want anyone else to experience that kind of pain.

“So I'm just done, I’m adamant. There is no getting around it," Holt said. "If you are going to come in here and try to not wear a mask, I’m going to tell you gee whiz, I lost my mom to COVID, so you can either put a mask on or eat somewhere else.”

People can report non-compliance complaints or concerns on the county line at 805-781-5500 or file it online by clicking here.

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Angel Russell started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, playing guitar and piano, and hanging out with her dog and husband.
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