Pueblo restaurants see anger and fewer customers after mask mandate

PUEBLO — After Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’ most recent facemask order, many restaurants have struggled as well as their employees.

Some restaurant owners have seen a drop in business and feel the directive has deterred people from eating out. Others have endured harassment from customers who refuse to wear facemasks.

Sydney Miller, the local Chick-fil-A owner in Pueblo, published a post on Facebook outlining the harassment her employees received on the first day of the mask mandate.

“Trust me when I say nothing about the last few months has been easy, but this has made it even tougher,” wrote Miller. “I can’t tell you how many times today my team members got yelled at, cussed at, and degraded for simply doing their job by not allowing folks in who aren’t wearing masks.”

Yet Miller and her employees are just doing their jobs.

The state say restaurant patrons must wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth when entering and exiting a restaurant but can remove them while seated. Children 10 and under and those with medical conditions do not have to wear a mask.

The stakes are not only raised for the customers. Should restaurants serve those without a face covering, they are also subject to legal repercussions even losing their license.

Like Chick-fil-A, Shamrock has seen some lashback from customers regarding the new restrictions.

At Shamrock Brewing Company, General Manager Gordon Cosfar, is worried about the mandate’s repercussions and is aware that a lack of cooperation on the part of his business could lead to the loss of his restaurant’s licensing.

Cosfar is wary, though, that the mandate is something his restaurant must adhere to.

“They need to understand we’d like to keep our restaurant in good standings with the local government … so we don’t want to go against the grain of things to fight anybody in any way,” he said.

Cosfar added that traffic at Shamrock has dropped since Polis’ most recent facemask mandate.

“Any time the government changes anything on us right now it seems like the business goes down a little bit,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s because, One: people are scared, or, Two: people are just upset and mad and like, ‘well fine I’m not even going to go out then.’”

“We’ve had a couple customers be kind of rude about it and blame us. It’s like they’re taking it out on us. I understand their frustration,” he said. “I wish them to understand — it’s not me who made the rule, I didn’t make the mandate, I don’t necessarily even support the mandate.”

Shawn Valencia, owner of the Hanger Bar and Grill, said business has also been bumpy for her since the mandate’s implementation.

“It just, like, died,” she said. “It was like somebody shut off the faucet or something.”

Valencia doesn’t know if the lack of business is because of the mandate, but thinks the timing is odd if it’s not.

“The only thing I can tell you is, if it’s not, it’s a coincidence,” she said.

For the customers who do still come to eat, Valencia said the Hanger hasn’t had too much trouble enforcing the facemask rule, as they offer extras at the door.

Likewise, Tim Guidry, co-owner of CaT’s Pourhouse, said his restaurant has not had to go to great lengths to enforce the facemask mandate.

“We haven’t really screamed or hollered at anybody or threatened to kick them out or anything like that … my customers are pretty much non-confrontational,” he said.

Business, Guidry said, has remained steady despite the recent developments, which he attributes to the universal application of the statewide mandate.

“In my opinion as long as there’s a level playing field and everything has to do the same thing, it’s all good,” he said.

At Shah’s Kabob, co-owner Andrew Shah said, while he has had to interact with a few aggressive customers regarding the facemaks mandate, they don’t usually bother him. If the restaurant loses customers because of the mandate, he said he is not too concerned.

“At the end of the day if people want the food, they’ll comply. That’s how I look at it. If they don’t want the food, then we don’t need those customers,” he said. “There are always customers you don’t need in business, too. That’s the key to a successful business.”

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