Businesses react to mask mandate in City of Aiken; Council pass resolution to rescind face-covering ordinance

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AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) — Aiken City Council passed a resolution by a vote of 4-3 in favor of rescinding the face-covering ordinance. It will take effect Thursday, May 6 at 6 a.m.

“I won’t require them to, I might still wear a mask,” Van Smith Owner Lionel Smith, Ltd. told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk.

Smith said that the coronavirus pandemic hit his business hard. “We had a rough time, April without having a masters, March without having the steeplechase. And the three races that we have in Aiken really took away from business. And then also basically having to be closed for six or eight weeks. We didn’t really close, but we did leave the door lock. We just did work inside here to get things done,” he recalled.

Business plummetted by 80 percent just that April alone. One thing that the pandemic did bring in, a requirement to wear face coverings in certain instances.

“It was viewed as a preventative measure to help the local hospitals. Because again we were concerned about the strain potential strain on the hospitals with people being admitted. So face coverings based on the data council had during that time a majority of council believed that face coverings would help with lowering the spread,” Aiken City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh said.

Meanwhile, restaurants and other food establishments fell under orders from governor henry McMaster and won’t be affected by council’s decision. But one restaurant owner says ordinance or no ordinance his eatery will still have mask requirements in place.

“We’ve been doing this for over a year. What’s another 30 to 60 days. Let’s keep them on. Let’s see how it goes. Let’s get better and get through it and then not have to worry about it,” Owner Cliff Garzzillo Apizza Di Napoli said.

Smith says he’s willing to follow what the City thinks is the best solution for its customers. “If we need to do it, let’s do it. Let’s get this pandemic over with and let’s move on with our lives and let’s go to a normal, I’m not necessarily interested in a new normal but just normal.”

Meanwhile, the new changes do not prohibit individual businesses from requiring their employees, customers, and visitors to wear masks at their place of business.

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