With the mask mandate lifting at the end of the month, Prince Albert businesses are figuring out ways to navigate the changes.
All health orders are set to end on Feb. 28, including the provincial mask mandate. Business owners like Cody Demerais are trying to prepare for customers who have strong opinions on masking. He says he can see both sides of the mask issue.
“There are still going to be many people that wear a mask with all of the restrictions and everything like that for their own well-being, their own safety, their own concern and I have nothing but respect for those people,” said Demerais, the owner of Limitless Gear and a Prince Albert Chamber of Commerce board member. “They should be able to go out in public and still feel comfortable doing the things that they have got to do to continue living their lives. I have nothing but respect for that but at the same time I know that there are many people out there in the world that are excited to have a few less restrictions in their daily lives. I respect a lot of those people too.
Demerais explained customers could get along better if they understood where others were coming from for their point of view. As far as employees masking, Demerais said they’ll base their policy on the customer’s preference.
“If a customer comes in with a mask on, I think it’s a clear visual to us to maybe toss ours on to make them a little bit more comfortable,” he explained. “But, if somebody comes in without one and it is just us and them in the store until somebody maybe comes in without a mask, I feel we should be comfortable now.”
Demerais said he hopes people will be cautious to help protect those who have underlying health issues. However, at some point, he said, residents have to get back to normal.
“This is running on two years, but we do have to continue to live life as much as possible with everything going on,” he said.
“I personally just hope that people can start respecting each other’s decisions on either front. I dislike seeing the world so divided and I am looking forward to when people start just respecting each other’s decisions.”
Restaurants were some of the hardest hit businesses during the pandemic, and while they’re looking forward to getting back to normal, they have concerns about customer response too.
Davinder Singh, general manager of Mr. Mikes Steakhouse in Prince Albert, said he will be pleased to see more customers, but also wants people to feel safe. Overall, he had mixed emotions.
“We will be doing everything we can with the cleaning and sanitizing and taking all of the measures that we personally can on our end,” he said.
“But overall, honestly, if I think about the business perspective, this is good news. It’s amazing. I am going to see more people coming in and with all of the restaurants, I think this will be a blessing.”
Singh said masking decisions will be left up to staff and patrons. The business is trying to respect everyone’s personal choice as much as possible.
“I told my staff it is totally their call,” he said. “If they don’t want to wear it, I cannot force them to wear a mask, but if they want to wear it by all means. I am not going to say no.
“With my staff, I know whoever I talk to, almost everybody wants to wear the mask later on as well, just to keep themselves safe and our guests safe and everything. But, let’s see what the future brings after the end of this month.”
Singh said they’re going to try and make everyone happy, whether they’re customers, staff, the government, or even himself.
Mask mandates for public buildings will also end on Monday. That includes the City of Prince Albert’s requirement for masking in City facilities and public transit.
Mayor Greg Dionne said their decision aligns the Government of Saskatchewan’s plan to end mandatory masking in public spaces.
“As of Monday morning, masks will no longer be mandatory in our facilities,” Mayor Greg Dionne said in a press release Friday. “Of course, we remain mask friendly and encourage anyone that would like to wear a mask to continue to do so.”
Restrictions will be lifted at all facilities where they have previously been enforced, including the Prince Albert Public Library.