Business owners furious at Hochul’s mask or vaccine mandate


Gov. Kathy Hochul’s new mask-or-vaccine mandate is like a lump of coal in a Christmas stocking for some small business owners.

Retailers in the Empire State are blasting Hochul’s new directive that will require workers and customers to wear masks or show proof of vaccination starting Monday as yet another challenge for struggling businesses at the height of the holiday shopping season.

“That’s not good for us small businesses,” said Jaser Bsharat, manager of his family owned Harlem Furniture on 125th St. “You could tell a customer to wear a mask or give them one, but you can’t force them to wear them.”

Bsharat said he had already shut down his online business because of shipping delays so if he can’t get people in the store, “We are out of business.”

Others blasted the penalties that could see owners face a maximum $1,000 fine per violation.

“It’s the people who don’t want to wear the mask (who) should pay the $1,000,” said Mahamada Camara, who is a worker at a Kennedy Fried Chicken on 125th St.

Camara said that was already difficult to get patrons to put on the face coverings.

“The people in New York City don’t listen. When they ask for food and I tell them to put on a mask, they want to fight me when I tell them to leave,” Camara said.

He called the mandate “bad for business.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul recently mandated all businesses and restaurants require staff and customers to show vaccination proof or wear masks.
Debra L. Rothenberg/ZUMA Press Wire

“I am already losing business. It’s only going to get worse,” he said.

But at Martin Brothers Wine and Spirits on Broadway and 107th St., director Felix Sanchez called the directive “appropriate.”

“Everyone has been wearing a mask anyway since the pandemic started. Everyone will adhere to it,” he said

In small upstate towns, the governor’s requirements are not realistic for some.

“I can’t stand at the door and be the vaccine police. That’s not possible for us and, as a small business, I don’t know what the answer is. I do know it’s not shutting us down again,” Lynette Thayer, who owns The Mason Jar boutique in Clayton, told news station WWNY-TV.

Heidi Owen West, who owns a clothing store in Saratoga Springs, said the timing couldn’t be worse.

Theatergoers wear masks to attend a performance of "The Lion King," on Broadway, at the Minskoff Theatre, Sept. 14, 2021, in New York.
Some business owners fear the state’s new mandate will discourage customers from coming.
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

“It looks like it needs to be implemented by Monday morning; I say what a brutal timeframe for a business owner to try and get something new in place especially during the holiday busy holiday season,” Owen West told WRGB Albany.

The mandate will be in effect until Jan. 15 and will be up to local health departments to enforce.

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