Sign at St. Agatha store says they won't ask why people aren't wearing a mask
KITCHENER -- A store in St. Agatha has made it clear staff won't ask customers to put on a mask.
They also say staff at Pfenning's Organic and More don't need to wear masks inside.
A sign on the door says "No mask? We won't ask. We are inclusive to all."
"We welcome anybody with masks or without masks," co-owner Almut Wurzbacher said. "It's basically taking the anxiety out of customers who are mask-exempt. They breathe a sigh of relief because they're not being attacked by the store owner."
Wurzbacher said she doesn't believe masks are effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19. She said Ministry of Labour has fined the store, but she believes it was because staff weren't physically distancing.
The Ministry of Labour said two tickets were issued at the store on Feb. 5 as part of the province's big box retail blitz.
One ticket was for failing to ensure physical distancing and was for $750. The other was for not identifying themselves and cooperating with inspectors and was for $1,000.
Both tickets were issued under the Reopening Ontario Act.
Wurzbacher said she doesn't expect staff to wear masks while at work.
"Everybody has the right to be exempt for medical reasons, religious reasons, psychological reasons, and I'm not allowed to ask," she said.
Regional Chair Karen Redman said the municipal bylaw makes it clear masks are mandatory in stores.
"Unless somebody said they had a medical reason why they couldn't wear a mask they would be expected to wear one," she said. "There would be an exception that the business would enforce this."
The situation has raised concerns for another business, Pfenning's Farms.
"We've been following the COVID protocols, including implementing a mask policy before it was required by the region," co-owner Jennifer Pfenning said.
Pfenning said the store is a separate business run by her sister-in-law.
"The call was made this morning to stop supplying the store as a customer," she said. "We have done this in the past with other customers. It's never a choice we make lightly."
She's encouraging other people in similar situations to have compassion.
“We may disagree, and this is one those lines we're just not willing to cross. But that doesn’t mean that the door is closed to her. She’s still my sister-in-law. She’s still my family," Pfenning said. "I would encourage anyone who is in a similar situation where they’re having a big disagreement with someone to have compassion, to hold on to the love, and to always hold space for that person. Don’t close the door. Stand for what’s right, stand for your values, but don’t close the door and don’t shut people out.”