COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Columbia's mask ordinance took effect at 6 a.m. on Friday, June 26.
By that afternoon, at least one restaurant was warned about violating the new rules.
On Thursday, A Peace of Soul Vegan Kitchen posted on Facebook it would not require its employees to wear masks.
Owner Folami Geter told WIS wearing a mask would be detrimental to the health of her staff, and that she believed she was acting in accordance with the ordinance.
The ordinance requires restaurant workers who work face-to-face with the public to wear masks.
However, it also lists off exceptions, which include health conditions. It does not specify that the exceptions do not apply to workers.
Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins and Fire Marshal George Adams spoke with Geter on Friday afternoon, and said the exception does not apply to face-to-face restaurant workers.
Jenkins said the restaurant would have until Monday (the next business day) to comply with the ordinance, or the business would be cited via letter and face a $100 fine.
Geter said the ordinance did not clarify the health exceptions did not apply to workers, and her goal wasn’t to intentionally violate it.
“The language in the ordinance is a bit confusing, and that has been admitted by all of the people I talked to there,” she said. “They are working on some clarifications I would hope, and we are working some ways in which we can comply.”
She added: “We’ve been in this community for 15 years at least. It’s never been our intent -- we sell vegan food -- we aren’t here to hurt anyone, I don’t want anyone to be harmed from coming to my restaurant.”
She sent WIS the following list of actions her restaurant is taking to curb COVID-19:
- Keep our dining area and self-serve stations closed
- Offer carryout-only food service until further notice
- Maintain abbreviated business hours to allow us more time to sanitize our space completely
- Use a 100% contactless payment system
- Stand a sanitizer station at our entrance
- Display clear signage indoors and outside our restaurant entrance to ensure that our customers are social distancing.
Chief Jenkins said the city has not had “any issues or any problems” with businesses being unwilling to adhere to the mask ordinance.
He said he encourages businesses to ensure their employees are wearing masks.
“COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire, and this is to me a proactive step in trying to keep people safe,” he said.