Local business owners breathe easier with lifting of mask mandate

Local business owners breathe easier with lifting of mask mandate
WINDSOR, ONTARIO:. MARCH 21, 2022 - Filip Rocca, owner of Mezzo, pictured at his restaurant, on Monday, March 21, 2022,  is happy the mask mandate is being lifted.
WINDSOR, ONTARIO:. MARCH 21, 2022 – Filip Rocca, owner of Mezzo, pictured at his restaurant, on Monday, March 21, 2022, is happy the mask mandate is being lifted. Photo by Dax Melmer /Windsor Star

From schoolrooms to barrooms, the great unmasking has begun.

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Local business owners were all smiles Monday as the provincial government lifted its mandate requiring face coverings in most indoor settings.

“It hasn’t been easy for us considering all the restrictions that especially restaurants, being the hardest hit, had to adhere to,” said Filip Rocca, co-owner of Mezzo Ristorante and Lounge. “It was very difficult. We’re trying to run a restaurant and stay afloat. It’s not easy to try and enforce all these mandates when customers are coming in and some aren’t willing to do so. But we’re happy to move forward and we’re excited to get back to normal, hopefully.”

A few weeks after removing capacity limits and proof of vaccination requirements, the province has lifted its mask mandate, allowing people to go bare-faced in schools, restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theatres and other public indoor settings.

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The majority of my clients were super happy

“I think it’s a pretty big day,” said Phog Lounge owner Tom Lucier. “The variant of comfort levels is such a weird thing to manoeuvre. But based on how overwhelmingly slammed we were when the passport thing went to bed, I’m anticipating the mask mandate is going to have a similar effect. So that’s good.”

Tom Lucier, owner of Phog in downtown Windsor is shown on Monday, February 14, 2022. He is welcoming the easing of pandemic restrictions.
Tom Lucier, owner of Phog in downtown Windsor is shown on Monday, February 14, 2022. He is welcoming the easing of pandemic restrictions. Photo by Dan Janisse /Windsor Star

There are some settings where masks are still required, such as Transit Windsor, Windsor Public Library, some health care settings, long-term care homes and other congregate care settings.

For the places where the mask mandate is lifted, the government has said business owners can still choose to require masks if they wish.

Barbershop owner Samer Markus said he’ll leave it up to his customers.

“We are going to make it optional for clients,” he said. “If they want to wear, they’re going to wear it. If they want to go back to where we do their beards and they put the mask back on again, absolutely. And we are making it optional for employees. If some of the boys want to wear it, we’re making it optional. But personally, I’m not going to be wearing it.”

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He doesn’t expect many of his customers will be wearing masks, either.

“Everybody was excited about the news,” he said. “The majority of my clients were super happy.”

Rocca also doesn’t anticipate seeing a lot of people wearing masks in his restaurant. He said it was a struggle to get people to put them on when it was provincially mandated.

“We’d have to tell multiple people daily to do so,” said Rocca. “Obviously the staff will be happy as well, especially coming up with the spring/summer heat we’ll be having.”

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Lucier said he’s worried a small number of people won’t be comfortable in mostly mask-free environments. But he suspects most people will feel the way he does.

On the way to the gym Monday, Lucier was hit with a dose of nerves when he realized he didn’t have a mask. Then an “endorphin rush” kicked in when he remembered he didn’t need it.

“I really loved that realization,” he said. “It was awesome. I feel like there are going to be customers that have that exact same feeling. They’re going to be walking to their favourite restaurant and bar, and as they approach they’re going to reach in their pocket for a mask and realize they don’t need it if they don’t want it. And they’re going to come in the bar with smiles for the next couple weeks.”

twilhelm@postmedia.com

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