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Different landscape: What a relaxed mask rule means for St. Louis businesses

CDC guidelines have loosened COVID restrictions, but some establishments have chosen to keep current restrictions in place

ST. LOUIS — The news Friday that Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Dr. Sam Page announced they were canceling indoor mask requirements created a ripple effect on St. Louis area establishments and public places.

“We have arrived at a point in the pandemic where we have to lean more heavily on personal accountability to prevent the spread of the virus,” St. Louis Health Director Dr. Fredrick Echols said.

Some business owners will wrestle with that personal accountability.

Melissa Brandt, owner of Cut N Dye, said: “My decision is to keep masks. We’re blow-drying constantly, we’re washing, we’re literally within 4 to 6 inches to someone’s face at all times. 

"I don’t know if you have a real vaccine card, a fake one, I don’t know if you’re lying to me. I can’t trust anybody. It's really sad. If we have a positive case, we are shut down, and no one can afford that anymore. I can’t risk being closed, because I can’t afford to be closed.”

Mowgli Rivard, co-owner of Little Fox, is keeping the mask requirement at the restaurant. She says she kept it because the city’s vaccination rates, around 26% fully vaccinated, aren’t high enough yet.

“It didn’t seem high enough to allow people in without a mask,” she said.

She says she’d rather keep the mask requirement than ask customers if they're vaccinated. 

“It seems like a less invasive way to go about it than asking if you’re vaccinated or figuring out how to prove that," Rivard said. "We think it’s the easiest way to offend people.

“That's not a lot to ask, considering our staff wears a mask for 10-12 hours a day. We’re not trying to put anything on people, we are just making sure people can still enjoy themselves.”

Ted Theodoropoulos, the owner of Burn Boot Camp, says masks are optional in his three St. Louis County locations for those who are vaccinated.

“Doing cardio in a mask is rough," he said. "We lost about 30% of our business as a result of COVID and the shutdowns. I feel like this is going to have a huge impact on our business going forward, and it's something that's long overdue.”

He says if customers are more comfortable wearing a mask, they can, and if they’re unvaccinated, they need to wear a mask.

On the CDC guidance unveiled Thursday, several national retailers stated they would keep mask mandates in place.

Other St. Louis businesses, organizations and public places have options on what kind of restrictions to leave in place and which ones to relax. A list of how some of them are adapting:

  • Archdiocese of St. Louis said that its mask mandate now only applies to all parish faithful who have not received a COVID-19 vaccination.
  • AMC Theatres requires all guests and crew throughout the theater to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status and regardless of local or state guidelines.
  • CBL Malls will continue to encourage customers to wear masks, and certain retailers may still require them to enter the store.
  • City Museum will continue to require masks on all guests 9 and older, no exceptions. Staff will continue to wear masks.
  • CycleBar fitness in Creve Coeur and Richmond Heights will no longer require vaccinated customers to wear masks.
  • Dierbergs announced people who are fully vaccinated will no longer be required to wear a mask while inside stores beginning Tuesday. The updated policy applies to customers, vendors and associates in all 25 stores across the St. Louis area. 
  • St. Louis Blues are authorized by the city health department to increase their home capacity to 9,000 fans, or nearly 50% of Enterprise Center.
  • St. Louis Cardinals announced that fully vaccinated fans attending games at Busch Stadium will no longer be required to wear masks inside the ballpark. Fans who are not yet fully vaccinated are strongly encouraged to wear masks inside the stadium, including the seating bowl, unless actively eating or drinking.
  • Schnucks updated its policy Saturday, announcing it "will no longer require fully-vaccinated customers to wear facemasks in our stores. At this time, Schnucks teammates will continue to wear facemasks while we review our internal policies and align with regulations in the municipalities in which we operate our 111 stores."
  • Six Flags is keeping its mask policy in place for now.
  • Trader Joe’s is one of the first major retailers to no longer require fully vaccinated shoppers to wear masks. Employees will still be masking up, a spokesperson said.
  • Walmart said customers who are fully vaccinated will not need to wear a mask in its stores, CNBC reported.
  • Wellspent Brewing Company is requiring guests and employees to continue masking.
  • West County Center is asking mallgoers to continue wearing masks for the time being.

The CDC guidance released Thursday still calls for masks in crowded indoor settings such as airports, planes, and other public transport, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters.