“We tried to do it, caught a lot of resistance,” How a Whitley Co. business owner is handling mask mandate

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 10:55 PM EDT
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WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. (WKYT) -The Brick Oven has had a rollercoaster ride since its start.

Shortly after opening last December, the pandemic hit.

“We tried every way in the world to abide by it, we’ve done everything,” said owner Jeff Brown.

He said it’s the mandatory masks that threw him off course.

“We tried to do it, caught a lot of resistance,” he said.

He said some customers walked out the door with their wallets when he told them to wear a covering.

“Roughly about 90% wears a mask, we do have that 10% that comes and dines in that doesn’t,” Brown said.

He said some encounters were more hostile.

“We mentioned about the mask and we was told to kiss his ‘hiney’ in other terminologies,” he said.

About a month and a half ago, the owner did a 180, making masks optional.

“We listened to what some people [were] saying, kind of took a step back and made the adjustments on our own and we’ve seen a significant change," he said.

Brown said the majority of people in town were willing to put on a mask when they were asked to, but he said it all came down to the numbers.

“We [saw] ourselves drop maybe down to about 12% roughly of our normal sales,” he said.

Brown said he feels the governor’s mandate puts all the weight on business owners' shoulders.

“We wonder ‘are we going to get a visit, get a fine, are they going to try to shut our doors?’, and then if we uphold what they’re trying to say, we catch it from the guest who come in and say ‘this is just you all, y’all are being mean,'" he said.

Governor Andy Beshear has very different feelings. He’s urging Kentuckians, especially those living in red zones, like Whitley County, to be careful.

“Make sure you reward businesses doing it right,” he said. "Go to places that are enforcing mask mandates, go to places that are providing the healthiest opportunity.”

The governor said the capacity limits for restaurants are staying, and the mask mandate continues. Despite the state’s orders, brown says he feels his decision to relax the rules is what kept his business afloat.

Brown said he doesn’t make his employees wear masks. He says he monitors his employees for symptoms. Brown said just a few days ago, one of his employees was feeling under the weather, and he hasn’t been at work.

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