Local businesses open up about possible mask mandate

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Mayor Steve Allender is among a growing number of mayors in South Dakota looking to enforce a mask mandate.

We now know what the Common Council will be debating at their special session Thursday night. With some exceptions, anyone entering an “indoor public place” must wear a face mask or covering. The definition of “indoor public place” closely mirrors the types of businesses that faced restrictions early in the pandemic. While there has been no shortage of opinions from the public regarding masks, support is mixed among local businesses.

Some Rapid City businesses have taken a “better late than never” approach to the prospect of a mandate, while others find it unnecessary. Those in favor of the mandate say it’s a matter of personal safety, responsibility, and care for those around them. Co-owner of the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, Kendra Larson, says the employees at her business are like family, and that it is important they keep each other safe. As several employees are health-compromised individuals, the store requires masks. Larson says she even provides masks that can be used in the next business. 

“It’s not a political statement, it’s strictly, ‘I respect you and I hope you respect me’,” said Larson. “And we’ll do what we can to take care of each other. And anything that we can do to prevent hospitalization or losing a loved one is well worth this.”

As for the Quilt Connection, with a number of aging employees and visitors, owner Anne Meisner says most visitors have been wearing masks from the start of the pandemic. 

“It’s such a trickle down. If someone gets it, then it trickles and trickles and trickles,” said Meisner. “And then, how do we have employees that can work if they’re all stuck at home? Hopefully not too ill, but I would definitely say wear a mask.”

Although it will be the businesses responsibility to enforce the mandate, some patrons don’t seem to mind. 

“I think, it would be good, to be honest, just as a safety precaution if nothing else,” said Rocky Mountain Chocolate patron, Riley Frieze. 

“For us, yeah, it might not be a huge deal if we get COVID, but you’ve got to think about grandparents, people with autoimmune disorders, people that can get hurt by it badly or die,” said Rocky Mountain patron, Joshua Lahr. “And it’s not that big of a deal to wear a mask, so I feel like we should all do our part.”

For those not in favor of the mandate, many still take precautions to keep visitors safe and say they will enforce the mandate if the mayor approves it.

“As far as our masks here, we do not wear them, but we are socially distanced,” said Mary’s Mountain Cookies co-owner, Julie Mahaffey. “It’s called respect. I’m not going to go against what our mayor has decided, and so we will wear masks.”

There were other business owners against the mandate who were concerned that their opinion would be unpopular among patrons, so they declined to comment.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local News, South Dakota News