Businesses consider lifting mask mandate

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NEW ORLEANS – In most of our local parishes, business-owners have a decision to make.

Governor John Bel Edwards has left it up to them to decide whether they will require their customers to wear masks.

At Drago’s in Metairie, staff are still wearing masks and taking precautions.

While most guests walking in were strapped up, owner Tommy Cvitanovich said he’s allowing his customers in Jefferson, Baton Rouge and Lafayette Parishes decide if they want to ditch the mask.

“There will be a sign at the door that states masks are available upon request,” Cvitanovich said. “We have to make sure everyone continues to stay healthy, but at the end of the day, everybody has an opportunity now to get a vaccine.”

Cvitanovich supports Governor Edwards’ move to let local government and businesses decide mask rules. He said it was hard for staff to police the mandate.

“This is our investment and it should be our decision on how to handle it,” said Cvitanovich. “Masks have not been popular although we wore them, we mandated you have a mask when walked in. We were also strict with our customers, the people coming to spend money here.”

Meanwhile at Drago’s Hilton Riverside in New Orleans, masks are required by everyone.

Orleans is cautiously moving forward and has not been in lockstep with the rest of the state.

“At the end of the day, we have to follow the rules and hopefully Orleans Parish will catch up with the rest of the state,” Cvitanovich said.

One customer believes until the vast majority of people are vaccinated, masks should stay.

“People who serve food should keep their mask on at least for now,” said Matthew Flowers.

One concept Drago’s is considering is two separate dining rooms; one for those who want to wear a mask and one for those who don’t.

“It’s like the old days when you walk in and they ask, “Want smoking or non-smoking?” Now, it’s going to be do you want a masked or unmasked dining room. It’s just a thought,” Cvitanovich said.

People are optimistic restrictions will ease more as the state’s COVID numbers continue to improve and more people will get vaccinated.

Drago’s will re-visit their employee mask policy in a week.

Other business owners who declined to go on camera tell WGNO some customers do not understand that businesses can still require masks even if their local government has lifted the mandate. Businesses ultimately have the right to refuse service if you do not follow the their rules.

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