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Kansas City Reinstates A Mask Mandate, Westport Shrugs Its Shoulders And Carries On

Chris Haxel
KCUR 89.3
With a new mask mandate looming in Kansas City, stores such as The Bunker will soon have to ask every customer to wear a mask — regardless of their vaccination status.

Businesses in Westport say they're ready for Kansas City's new mask mandate, which takes effect on Monday.

Kansas City’s mask mandate is back.

With the COVID-19 Delta variant coursing through the community, Mayor Quinton Lucas last week announced a new emergency order requiring masks in all “indoor spaces of public accommodation where six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.”

And yet, with the new mandate taking effect Monday, the collective response of businesses in Westport might best be described as a shrug of the shoulders.

At Mickey’s Hideaway it was business as usual on Saturday. Some employees wore masks, but most customers went without although scattered rain showers left the majority of them eating inside.

But come Monday, customers will have to eat outside if they don’t want to wear a mask, said Erin McZee, operations director for Culinary Virtue, which owns Mickey’s, Char Bar, Beer Kitchen and Port Fonda.

“Do I wish that we weren't having this variant spread and didn't have to do this? Absolutely,” she said. “But how do I feel about complying? I mean, fine.”

McZee said the restaurants saved their masking signs and will slap them back on the front door Monday.

And she hopes businesses across the city do the same — because customers might be more resistant to wearing masks if they experience uneven compliance in other bars and restaurants.

Back to the beginning

Those awkward conversations are also a concern at The Bunker, a clothing store up the street from Mickey’s Hideaway.

“I am a little worried that we’re going to have people throwing slight tantrums,” said Tori Jonson, a sales representative. “But I’m hoping that for the most part people understand that even if it’s not something that they want to do, or necessarily believe in, that they should just do it to make everyone else happy and not cause fights.”

Jonson said staff at The Bunker stopped wearing masks once they were all fully vaccinated, but put them back on last week when they found out the mandate was back, mostly to get used to them again.

“People are not excited,” she said. “We’ve had a few people come in and as soon as we tell them they don’t have to have (the mask) on yet, they will rip it off and say, ‘Thank God.’”

Contrast that with customers at Creative-Coldsnow art supply store.

A sign on the front door informs people of the looming mandate, but every single customer who walked into the store Saturday was already wearing a mask, said co-owner Michelle Bland.

She chalked it up in part to her clientele — the store is a couple blocks outside Westport’s core bar district.

And despite some ongoing supply chain problems with art supplies, Bland isn’t worried too much about the economic impact of the mask mandate. The store has so far made it through the pandemic by “tightening up our bootstraps a little bit more” and besides, she figures people are tired of being at home.

Back at Mickey’s Hideaway, McZee expects her restaurants — and Westport as a whole — to weather the mask mandate.

"I'm not afraid of us closing," she said. "I am obviously concerned for our employees, so I want to make sure that they're making as much money as they're used to making now. So we'll probably up our to-go business and go back to doing drinks to go... it'll be an impact, but we'll manage it."

And while McZee hopes to be able to put the masking signs back in storage soon, she said one thing that might be here to stay is using QR codes for menus.

“We love it,” she said. “It’s less paper waste… whenever we update our menus, instead of having to throw away a bunch of menus and print new ones, we just update the code and it’s there.”

And, she says, "less touching" which is a good thing for preventing the spread of illness, whether it's the Delta variant, some other future COVID-19 variant or just the common cold.

As a reporter covering military and veterans’ affairs, I tell the stories of current and former service members and their families. I hold the government, elected officials and others responsible when they break their promises. And I explore how Americans can best uphold our commitments to those who serve.
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