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Small businesses debate: To mask or not to mask?

LUCY GRINDON, HOST: Governor Kathy Hochul let the statewide indoor mask mandate expire this morning,. But the CDC continues to recommend the use of face coverings indoors in public and many New York City rules remain in place. Masks are still required on the subway, in theaters and public schools. But some small businesses are allowed to let customers shop mask free. Linnea Arden asks if they’re ready to take that step.

ARDEN, BYLINE: KAARE BIVIN-PEDERSON is the general manager at Amsterdam Wine CO. on the upper west side. He says the change was too hasty.HE’s still am worried about HIS friends and co workers. CATCHING COVID

BIVIN-PEDERSON: And to have to tell adults to please just wear a mask for like five minutes while you're getting your wine is a real pain. Just do your part people.

ARDEN: But… because the state law has lapsed it’s now up to small businesses like his- ones that don’t require vaccination cards to enter to decide what to do.

BIVIN-PEDERSON: I'm personally a little disappointed as it has been a chore to deal with customers as the mandate has come and gone.

ARDEN: Bivin-Pederson’s main concern is that a lot of his customers are elderly so he’s still planning on asking his shoppers to wear masks. He hadn’t had to tell anyone to put a mask on yet – because there aren’t a lot of wine-shoppers at 10am — Meanwhile, just a few blocks north, at Town Shop, the mood was festive.

KOCH: starting today, we're not going to fight customers,

ARDEN: Danny Koch is the fourth generation owner of Town Shop, a lingerie store.

KOCH: we're going to let people make their own decisions. We've been policing for over a year now. And it's exhausting. But that sign in the window, I am going to take that down, I think I have a new sign that someone made this morning for me that says we would prefer you wear a mask, but we will not fight you.

ARDEN: But Valentine's day is coming up, the shop’s biggest. Is Koch worried about a bunch of maskless customers crowding the aisles?

KOCH: We're guinea pigs again. And we're gonna hope for the best and I'm optimistic that it's going to be okay, but yes, it would be better if it didn't happen right before Valentine's Day.

ARDEN: On the street outside shopper Emma Smith says the picking and choosing of when to wear a mask, seems silly.

EMMA SMITH: if I go in and I see people are not, I'm not going to because, I don't think it makes sense. There's no difference between a restaurant and a store. Actually, restaurants are probably packed more so that 's ridiculous. I'm a Jew from Germany, you know, we don't like following, you know, any laws just without reflecting on them first.

ARDEN: But Smith is a New Yorker now. And it looks like along with much of the rest of the city it’ll be a while longer before New Yorkers need to worry if they’ve got anything stuck in their teeth. Linnea Arden, Columbia Radio News

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