‘It’s confusing’: DC businesses respond to mask mandate changes

The new D.C. mask mandate has left some business owners trying to figure out what to do next.

“The instructions aren’t clear. The messaging isn’t clear,” said Mark Bucher, co-founder of D.C. restaurant Medium Rare.

On Friday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued new COVID-19 mask wearing guidelines without announcing them, stating that fully-vaccinated residents could enter establishments without wearing a mask. The order also gave business owners the authority to require proof of vaccination.

But by Saturday evening, the new guidelines were removed from the D.C. government website and replaced with more restrictive guidelines, which stipulate that fully-vaccinated residents will still have to wear a mask when in indoor common areas or inside businesses.

Bucher said that he’s not a fan of asking people for proof that they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19, but he’s willing to do what it takes to keep his staff and customers safe.

“We do not like being in the role of enforcement agent, however, we will do what is in the public’s best interest to keep everybody safe, including our staff,” Bucher said.

He said they’re keeping their policy the same. That means masks on when you’re not at your table or not eating or drinking.

Bucher says he wished that D.C., Maryland and Virginia were more in line with rules and policies because they’re so close together.

“It’s confusing. We don’t know how to make heads or tails out of it,” Bucher said.

Julie Wineinger, owner of Lulabelle’s Sweet Shop and Willow clothing and gift shop says she’s worried about her younger customers.

“I don’t feel comfortable having a whole bunch of children inside when they’re not vaccinated. So it’s all just really confusing,” Wineinger said.

Her store, Willow, just opened to in-person customers last week. She says they’re not changing their policy calling for customers and employees to wear masks.

She also doesn’t want to ask her customers whether they’ve been vaccinated.

“I’m not, I don’t want to be the person that has to say, oh, you’re not vaccinated, you know, get out,” Wineinger said. “It’s much easier for us to just say, you know, please wear your mask.”

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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