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Washington businesses now required to turn away customers without face masks

Starting July 7 in Washington state, if you aren’t wearing a mask, businesses like grocery stores and restaurants are required to ask you to leave.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — As of July 7 in Washington state, if you aren’t wearing a mask, businesses like grocery stores and restaurants are required to ask you to leave.

The new statewide order is in response to a surge in novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases.

The proclamation comes almost a week after Gov. Jay Inslee's statewide mandate took effect requiring people to wear face masks while in public, both indoors and outdoors where six feet of social distancing is not possible. 

Just like not everyone likes being told to wear masks, there are business owners who don't like being told to enforce the governor's mask ban, especially if it means turning away customers.

While most businesses are expected to comply, some said they will not or haven’t decided yet.

RELATED: What counts as a medical exception to the mask requirement in Washington?

"We took a big hit and just as we're starting to recover and get back on our feet. Now we're dealing with another hurdle,” said Andy Thielen, owner of T Brothers Liquor Lodge. “We'll encourage people to wear masks. I don't know if we'll tell people to leave our establishment if they're not."

That is exactly what Gov. Inslee wants every business owner in the state to do starting Tuesday. Those who fail to refuse service to customers who don't wear masks can face fines and even lose their business license.

Thielen's employees must wear masks but he fears forcing customers will mean losing customers, saying the state has put them in a “tough spot.”

At 80 Brewhouse in Olympia, they’ve required customers to wear masks when they walk in for weeks. Masks are also required when you get up to use the restroom.

“We've got a couple of times where some people have said some profanities to the staff just because they're the messenger,” said owner Chris Knudson.

Despite the occasional push back, Knudson said most customers have been willing to put on a mask.

"We're just trying to educate and be nice and just say, ‘you can’t come in, sorry. Eventually, you'll be able to again, but let's get through this by wearing masks for now,'” Knudson said. 

Gov. Inslee also announced last Thursday that the state is putting a two-week pause on counties moving to their next phases of reopening due to increasing COVID-19 cases.

Counties will remain in their current phase for the next two weeks, or until July 16, according to the state Department of Health.

"When we wear a mask, it is a signal about something about us, it is a signal we care about the community, we care about our loved ones, we care about those we are doing business with," Inslee said.

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