Mask policies now vary at local restaurants, shops

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As the state lifts COVID-19 restrictions on businesses this week, the owners of local shops and restaurants have their own plans for handling the change. 

Gov. Lamont announced in April that as long as COVID cases continued to trend downward and vaccinations increase, all remaining business restrictions would be lifted as of Wednesday. Businesses are now be able to choose their own hours and mask requirements. 

Some cities and towns like Meriden issued statements ahead of the change saying masks are not required outside but provided guidelines for masks indoors.

“You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks (14 days) after your final dose of the COVID-19 vaccination,” the statement said. “Unvaccinated persons must continue to wear masks.” 

The statement also says some buildings like schools, healthcare and childcare facilities still require masks. Businesses, state, and local government buildings may also choose to require universal masking.

Dorothy DiBenedetto, owner of The Gift Box in Meriden, is in a unique situation, she said, and therefore has made the decision to continue requiring masks. 

“My business is also my home,” DiBenedetto said. “I live here with my family, my daughter is here and she’s only nine, so she isn’t eligible to be vaccinated. I’m hoping my customers will understand that.” 

While the owner will require masks for in-store shopping, she said she plans to be very flexible for her customers. 

“If someone saw something on Facebook they liked and wanted to do curbside, I offer that,” she said. “I’ve also always offered customers the opportunity to shop before or after normal business hours if they preferred to shop alone." 

The Gift Box, 131 Main St. in South Meriden, offers gifts and party favors for various holidays as well as candles, pottery and decor. The shop is open Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., Tuesday to Friday 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 

Another retail store, The Dressing Room Boutique in Wallingford, popular for formal wear and now casual attire, will also require customers to continue wearing masks while in the shop. 

“I’ve also asked other local businesses and they aren’t going to change anything either,” owner Lyndsay Rinere said. “The first thing we’ll adjust is taking down our plexiglass shield at our front counter but we’ll probably wait a couple of weeks to do that.” 

“We just want to see how customers are in the store and what people feel comfortable with, so we’re just going to wait,” Rinere added.

The shop owner said the boutique continues to offer curbside pickup and runs a successful online shop. The Dressing Room, 3 N. Main St. Wallingford is open Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. 

Restaurants, bars

Some local restaurants are taking a different approach. 

On Tuesday morning, Wise Guys Pizza & Deli, 994 West Main St., announced on Facebook the restaurant would not require masks for fully vaccinated customers and employees, but asks that everyone respects each other’s differences when it comes to the matter, while also offering alternatives. 

“If you don’t feel comfortable coming in if you see unmasked customers/workers,” the statement said. “I will mask up and bring it to your car. If we deliver and you want the driver masked up, please request so on the phone." 

Wise Guys is open 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

In Southington, The Art of Yum’s founder/owner Michone Arrington said he can’t wait to be able to not wear masks, but as a business owner understands some of his customers’ precautions. 

“All of our staff will continue to wear masks. We want to make sure that all of our guests are comfortable,” Arrington said. “If a customer is fully vaccinated and shows some type of proof, they don’t have to wear one.” 

The Art of Yum opened in Southington earlier this year and specializes in breakfast cuisine. The restaurant ,1091 S. Main St., is open Sunday-Wednesday 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and Thursday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. 

Like The Art of Yum, Corner Cafe in Wallingford will not require masks for fully vaccinated customers. The cafe, 321 Church St., will continue some things that were introduced during the pandemic. 

“We will not eliminate our food service, that has been a big success. That will continue to be available,” owner Melissa Moran said. “We also have about five tables with umbrellas, like last year but there isn’t a tent yet.” 

She said she will post signs and requests if a customer isn’t fully vaccinated they wear a mask. Moran said she hopes the honor system will work

Corner Cafe was scheduled to resume normal business hours on Wednesday. The hours are Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-2 a.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Twitter: @faith_williams2

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