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Local businesses work to enforce state mask order

Most patrons respectful and accommodating

“Mask up.” 

Several local businesses in downtown Morgantown have signs to enforce the mandate Gov. Jim Justice put into effect after the July 4 holiday weekend. 

Morgantown City Council passed an ordinance giving city police the power to cite anyone  not wearing a face mask in public within city limits. The  misdemeanor is punishable by a $25-$500 fine.

Outside the city, enforcement is up to  businesses, since Justice said the state mandate would not be formally enforced. 

“It’s been very challenging in how to ask people to comply,”  said Shannon Dowling, owner of River Fair Trade on High Street. “It’s weird to ask. … You try not to alienate people.”

Despite the challenges,  Dowling is grateful for the support of the “townies” and regular customers who continue to support small businesses like hers.

“Our regular customers have supported us small businesses downtown through the pandemic,” she said. “They are trying their best to make sure that their small businesses are here when this is all over, and that’s what I try to focus on when I get overwhelmed. I love Morgantown for that reason.”

Hoot and Howl owner Stephanie Swaim said she has had positive feedback  with customers being respectful and wearing a mask when entering her store. Several small businesses also offer free masks at the door if someone needs one.

Ashley Gillespie, manager of Park & Madison Boutique at the Suncrest Towne Centre, said the  support from the community has been helpful and she encourages residents  to continue to shop local.

“The support has been very successful for Morgantown. … People ordering [online], calling the store,” Gillespie said. “As a small business, we definitely need the continued support of our community.”

 Andy Hess, assistant manager of Sargasso, a  fusion cuisine eatery on Don Knotts Boulevard, said the mandate has not caused any issues with people not respecting the rule of wearing masks.

Hess said the restaurant is doing its best to stay open and also using the opportunity to develop more of a social media presence. 

President and CEO of Visit Mountaineer Country Convention and Visitors Bureau Susan Riddle said the community has been working together. 

On the CVB’s website, there is a safety pledge  for businesses to take part in, to help COVID-19 numbers decrease.

“Our community is really smart and cares about our quality of life,”  Riddle said. “As such, I fully expect that they will all continue to work together for us to get to a place where we are able to enjoy our quality of life here that we are blessed with in the manner that we were enjoying it before, without so many restrictions.”

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