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Tampa businesses bear the burden of mask policy and enforcement

With local ordinances being removed, it is now up to businesses to decide what to enforce, and how.

TAMPA, Fla. — With local ordinances being removed, it is now up to businesses to decide which COVID-19 protocols to enforce, and how. Some are keeping measures in place, while others are leaving it up to the customers.

For Brandon Crossroads Bowl owner Jeff Boje, he does what he can to keep customers safe.

"And we do our part, we clean, we wear our masks, we do everything we're supposed to do to be socially responsible."

Over the past year, he has dealt with his share of angry customers. Back in June of 2020, when mask ordinances were first being put in place, he had a customer act out.

"On the very first night, the bartender simply asked a man to wear a facemask while he was playing pool. He turned around, broke the billiards stick over his knee, and tossed it at the bartender, and walked out the door," Boje said to us in an interview in June.

Today, with the decision to enforce masks or not in his hands, he says he is leaving it up to customers. 

"The vast majority want to never wear that face mask again."

For those that do, Boje says he is able to keep masked and unmasked bowlers separate.

Some restaurants, like The Poke Company in Channelside, have decided to keep enforcing the mask policy.

"We want to do what the majority of our customers feel most comfortable with, and most importantly, keep our employees safe. That's the number one thing that we are most concerned with here," said owner Anthony Federico.

But the decision has not come without pushback.

"In a few sit-in situations, especially after the ordinance was lifted, we've had a few situations where guests were not comfortable with that request. And we feel that it's unfair for anyone to hurt a small business with a bad review or a bad feel, based on them getting upset and over us wanting to do what's best for the overall safety of not only our staff but the rest of the community," said Federico.

While masks are still required and will be provided if a customer doesn't have one, Federico is also offering alternative options for customers.

"If somebody doesn't want to wear a mask, we have options. We have online ordering, we can see ordering where we bring the food to them.”

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