Business owners encourage kindness as mask-related aggression increases

Business owners encourage kindness as mask-related aggression increases

Customers can get scoops of loose leaf tea, drinks, and sweets at TeBella Tea Company, but the owner said she hopes customers walk in with one basic thing: kindness. TAMPA, Fla. – With Florida’s private businesses now having the choice of whether to ask patrons to wear masks, a Bay Area small business owner said she had to put out a special sign to ask customers to treat employees with respect when they enforce the store’s policies.

“I’ve actually fielded quite a few phone calls in the last couple of days from employees that are fearful over the way they’ve been spoken to. They’ve been called names. They’ve been threatened, and they’re pretty upset about it. They don’t deserve that,” said Abigail StClair, the owner of TeBella Tea Company. With several locations around Tampa Bay, StClair said people became more aggressive toward employees after Governor Ron DeSantis removed pandemic-related restrictions including mask mandates Monday.

Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended all local-government coronavirus emergency orders on Monday as he signed a bill that makes permanent his ban on COVID-19 vaccine ‘passports’ and limits the authority of cities and counties in future healthcare crises. That left private businesses to enforce their own COVID-19 rules instead of local government.

DeSantis says vaccines are safe, effective, and readily available MORE: Gov. DeSantis signs bill banning vaccine passports; suspends COVID-19 local emergency orders

RELATED: DeSantis to unemployed: Start looking for a job “If they feel that those protocols that are recommended are appropriate whether it’s inside or outside, they have the right on their property to set those rules,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman during a commission meeting this week.

Pandemic-related staff shortages make losing a good worker that much harder. So small business owners said they hope the public has some empathy and kindness when they come in. “They came in and started name calling her and verbally assaulting her, and she had just had enough. She told me after four years she was done. Couldn’t even come back another day,” said StClair. “It was just happening too many times, and honestly, I don’t blame her. It’s just not worth it.” Wednesday, a new sign went up outside TeBella, saying masks required along with a message describing what employees are going through. StClair said that sign went up after one employee quit during a shift, and that was a first in her 10 years of business.

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