KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Shortly after Mayor Quinton Lucas announced Kansas City is dropping its mask mandate, many businesses tore their signs off their doors and are back to business as usual.
“It is weird. I think there’s going to be a lot weird about all of this,” said Jim Saffels, who hasn’t been in public without a mask since the pandemic started.
He said dropping the mask mandate is a welcome but uncomfortable feeling. He said carrying his mask in his pocket if he needs it makes things better.
“I think there’s a lot of things that happen to us that we don’t realize, emotionally, that we are going to have to deal with,” Saffels said.
For his first outing, Saffels chose Charlie Hoopers Bar and Grille, which had a zero tolerance policy for people who didn’t wear a mask and didn’t social distance. More than a few times manager George Clarke had to kick people out and even call the police.
“It’s not been a great interaction between guests and staff because, instead of us welcoming you into the restaurant, it seems like we’ve been trying to play police as you walk in the door,” Clarke said.
But that’s all over at Hoopers now. Masks are optional.
“I’m glad we did all the right things over the past year, but I’m also excited not to wear a mask anymore,” server Bella Calcara said. “I think I’m going to keep wearing it for a couple months just until more people start getting vaccinated.”
Calcara is vaccinated but feels safer wearing a mask at work, which is perfectly fine with her bosses. She’ll do some research when she goes somewhere to decide if she’ll mask up or not.
“The more people to get vaccinated, the safer I feel,” she said. “As long as there’s vaccination requirements at these places of employment, and it’s a hard requirement for employees, I would feel comfortable going into a restaurant with a mask.”
Even though it is not required, some businesses will still be requiring masks.
“It’s a strange time,” said Mike Doohan, whose family owns Mike’s Wines and Spirits. “We feel like we’re — every day stuff’s changing, and we’re just trying to make sure we’re doing the right thing to keep people safe.”
Everyone who works at Mike’s and vendors are still required to wear masks, while customers strongly encouraged. Even though all of his staff is fully vaccinated, it’s a decision Doohan made to protect them for just a while longer.
“I don’t think our staff having masks on is a problem for anyone buying booze, and if anybody is uncomfortable, they can just order for delivery or curbside pickup,” he said.
Although we’re still far from herd immunity, Johnson County Health Director Dr. Sanmi Areola supports the CDC’s recommendation that vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks.
He said the more they’re learning about COVID-19, the clearer it’s becoming that the vaccines work and work well. Areola said they’re keeping vaccinated people from getting and passing COVID-19 including the variants.