Local business owners react to 'The Mask Map'

Jan 12, 2021

The Mask Map is a website where people can post their opinions and experiences on whether a store or other business is following pandemic-related mask mandates. But some business owners caution the website may not accurately reflect a businesses' position or enforcement of social distancing rules and mask wearing. 

The website displays a map with locations marked with one of two icons—an orange face wearing a mask signals the business is following public health guidelines; a blue face without mask indicates a business is not enforcing the mask policy, or not following the mandate properly.

The Hive boutique shop in Arroyo Grande comes up as a blue face. Owner Tracy Sonny said she is aware of the website and that it is accurate about her business—she, in fact, is not requiring customers to wear masks when they come into her shop.

Sonny told KCBX News she has mixed feelings about the website, and believes it's up to her customers to decide if they want to wear a mask or not.

But other business owners, like Marty Budinger of SLO’s Broad Street Giant Grinder, say they are shocked to see their business listed as not following the mask mandate. 

“It’s actually quite upsetting to see somebody posting something that is untrue," Budinger said. "That goes completely against everything we’ve been working so hard to do for almost a year now.”

Budinger said all his employees wear masks, and that they are following all state and local public health orders. 

“We’ve put up all the signs that we need to," Budinger said. "Anybody that comes in without a mask, we ask them to put one on and if they don’t have one, we give them masks.”

Owner of Bon Temps Creole Cafe in San Luis Obispo, Phil Lang, was also appalled to see his business marked with a blue icon and listed as not following the mask mandate. He said that label is completely inaccurate. 

“I am shocked to hear this," Lang said. "It doesn’t sound like us because I know we’ve been wearing masks since March. That’s not us, that’s not who we are and that’s not who we’ve been.”

Lang said his restaurant staff are doing everything they can to follow the rules. Budinger urges people not to trust everything they read online. 

“If you have any question as to what people are posting, give the business a call, give us a call, ask us face-to-face rather than relying on some anonymous person online,” Budinger said.

The website said it’s intended to be a “neutral platform for the public.” The site lists 'terms of use' but doesn’t claim to verify the information contained on the site.

Several SLO County businesses that came up as not enforcing the mask mandate declined an interview or stated they had no comment.