Kearney businesses have mixed reaction to mask mandate

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 12:33 AM CST
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - The Kearney City Council voted to pass an emergency ordinance mask mandate on Tuesday night, and area business owners have mixed feelings. Some business owners say that’s not their place to enforce, but others say they think it’ll help them crack down on their own policies.

“It takes the pressure off the business owners requiring people or trying to get people to wear masks,” Owner of Bow & Arrow Boutique Becky Forbes told Local4 News.

Right now her shops doesn’t require masks for customers, but they do recommend it to keep everyone safe.

“It does take the pressure off of us having to worry about people coming in and wondering if they should wear a mask or not wear a mask because they mandated it,” she said. “It takes the pressure off the business owner one way or another.”

Forbes also has a shop in North Platte and said she doesn’t think they can handle another closure.

“As a small business owner, I can’t afford to shut down, and I don’t want to be shut down so that’s a simple step that we can take,” Forbes said. “It’s just a simple thing that we can do if it protects us then great.”

Across town, another business owner feels very different.

Lane Shannon, the owner of Kearney Vape Supply posted to his Facebook page almost immediately after the city council vote to say he would not enforce it.

Shannon did say they have other precautions that they’re taking to prevent any spread of COVID-19. That includes having sanitizer available for customers who want it and cleaning the shop with a microban 24 disinfectant every morning. He said customers are welcome to wear a mask if they choose to, but he won’t force it on them.

“I don’t have legal authority to dictate what a person wears or doesn’t wear,” Shannon said in a phone call with Local4 News. “That’s not on me. That’s not my authority and no amount of delegation from any type of city government is going to make give me that authority.”

Shannon said according to his lawyer since he has an age requirement to enter his shop, it’s not technically opened to the general public and the ordinance does not apply to him.

“I was in contact with my lawyer before the meeting,” he said. “He was watching the meeting. I gave him the ordinance documentation that they had posted on their website and I already got a definitive answer from my lawyer before they even voted yes on it.”

Kearney Police Chief Bryan Waugh said it doesn’t necessarily work like that.

The ordinance said violations to the new policy can lead to a minimum of a $25 fee, but Chief Waugh said they hope it doesn’t have to get to that.

“With this particular city ordinance, our process is going to be one of voluntary compliance so the first step is going to be to speak with the business or the property owner,” Chief Waugh said. “Pretty much it’ll be a warning. Those will evolve and if we get called back again, we’ll have more conversations but ultimately it may reach a point where we have to issue a citation.”

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