Business owners stuck in the middle of New York's mask guidance and customers

Kristin Thorne Image
Wednesday, May 19, 2021
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Kristin Thorne reports small business owners in New York are trying to figure out how far to govern the state's new indoor mask guidance based upon a customer's vaccination status.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Small business owners in New York are trying to figure out how far to govern the state's new indoor mask guidance based upon a customer's vaccination status.

Seth Needleman, owner of The Fish Store in Bayport, said he has instructed his employees not to ask a customer without a mask on whether he or she has been vaccinated.

"I just don't want that liability on me," he said. "Business is hard enough. You want to close your doors fast, you start doing stuff like that."

Needleman said he is hoping unmasked customers will still obey social distancing.

"I want my customers to feel comfortable in here," he said.

At Butera's Restaurant in Sayville, they are requiring customers to show proof of vaccination when they enter the restaurant.

"It's basically for the comfort of our guests," said restaurant manager Paul Fischer.

Fischer showed Eyewitness News how customers who are vaccinated will sit on one side of the restaurant and will not have to wear masks or social distance, while unvaccinated guests will sit on the other side of the restaurant where the tables are kept six-feet apart. A wall separates the two sections.

Fischer said they are also asking people for their vaccination status when they call to make reservations at the restaurant.

Dr. Bruce Polsky, Chairman of Medicine at NYU Langone Hospital - Long Island, said fully vaccinated people do not need to worry if unmasked people are lying about their vaccination status.

"You're protected and that's the whole idea - the vaccination is protective," he said.

Polsky said unvaccinated people who take off their masks indoors are only putting themselves at risk.

"They're only exposing themselves. There's no gain in it for them," he said.

Polsky said if people are vaccinated, but are still nervous about being indoors without a mask on, they should wear one to make themselves feel comfortable.

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