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Unmasking an ordinance: Tulsa businesses weigh in on elimination of COVID-prompted mandate
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Unmasking an ordinance: Tulsa businesses weigh in on elimination of COVID-prompted mandate

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Although the city of Tulsa’s mask ordinance concluded at midnight Friday, bartenders, servers and proprietors likely will continue to see plenty of covered faces around town.

At least for a while.

That was the take from a number of businesses that spoke to the Tulsa World about the elimination of the mandate, which was put in place in July.

“Our plan, along with a lot of other businesses, is that we’re still going to attempt to require people to wear a mask in our common areas — or at least heavily recommend them,” said Eric Marshall, owner of Marshall Brewing Co. “For the most part our customers have been really good. Our loyal people have been understanding and appreciative of everything we’ve done. That doesn’t mean that we haven’t had random people come in now and again and make a big fuss about it.”

City facilities will continue requiring masks, as will the airport and 14 of Tulsa’s largest area attractions, including ahha Tulsa, Discovery Lab, Gathering Place, Gilcrease Museum, Oklahoma Aquarium, Philbrook Museum of Art, Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, Tulsa Ballet, Tulsa Garden Center at Woodward Park, Tulsa Historical Society and Museum, Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Tulsa Symphony, Tulsa Zoo and the Woody Guthrie Center.

Businesses, however, will determine on their own how masks will figure into their operations. If confronted by patrons who will not comply with their rules, they have a fundamental right to call the Police Department to enforce the city’s trespassing ordinance, Mayor G.T. Bynum said.

The mayor also issued an executive order that halted the requirement for restaurant or bar workers to wear masks, which was scheduled to continue even when the mandate expired. He said the civil emergency proclamation will remain in place, along with the city’s requirement that any events of 500 people or more have safety plans.

“At the end of the day, we want to keep things to where we don’t have to go through this again,” Marshall said. “I don’t think we’re quite at the level of feeling like we’re in the clear on this. If we can continue to do our part to try to prevent or mitigate … we will continue to keep the safety of the community in the forefront as things start to open up a little bit.”

Allison Dickens, owner of Ludger’s Bavarian Cakery in Tulsa, said earlier in April that the end of the mandate would bring “a sense of relief.”

“That doesn’t reflect our lack of support for the measure but simply that it is really hard to enforce when there are high emotions around the topic. We will continue to support the choice and encourage those who feel most comfortable wearing a mask to do so and for those not wearing a mask to be respectful of social distancing and other measures that can still be taken.”

Masks will not be going away immediately for employees of the McNellie’s Group family of restaurants, which includes McNellie’s Pub, Yokozuna, Dilly Diner and Wild Fork.

“It doesn’t look like it will have a huge impact on us because our employees will continue to wear masks for a bit longer,” said Jim O’Connor, chief operating officer and partner of McNellie’s Group.

Tina Parkhill said she will remain a stickler for social distancing at her business, Parkhill’s South Liquors & Wine. As for covering the face, she added that “we are going to continue to encourage it but we’re not going to make it a barrier to coming into the store.”

Libby Billings owns local restaurants Elote, Roppongi and The Vault.

“We probably won’t be requiring masks once the city ordinance expires,” she wrote in an email. “Given that our guests take their masks off once they sit at their table, it won’t make a huge impact on our guests. Mainly, it’s going to impact my staff.

“Since most of them have already been vaccinated, I think they will be glad to not be required to wear a mask anymore. We will, of course, support the ones who still want to wear a mask and still have plenty of outdoor dining options for people who aren’t ready to dine indoors, yet.”

Featured video:

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum addresses the question April 29, 2021 as the city's mask ordinance is set to expire.

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