KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With an 11-2 vote, the Kansas City, Missouri, City Council extended the existing citywide mask mandate at its Thursday meeting. Local businesses in Westport say they will follow the rules, regardless of Thursday's decision, set forth by city leaders.
“We’ve been thrown 17 curveballs already in the restaurant business — what’s another one, you know? I’m ready to move with whatever they say,” said Joe Zwillenberg, owner of Westport Flea Market.
Zwillenberg made immediate changes to his day-to-day operations when COVID-19 first hit. The business required masks for customers, spaced out tables, installed Plexiglass and provided single-serve condiments for their famous burgers.
Although Zwillenberg says he will continue to abide by all state and city guidelines that are in place, the mask mandate has brought on unforeseen challenges of its own.
“If they take away the mask mandate, I think it’s a little bit nicer because it really does take that customer who’s a bit apprehensive about wearing a mask or coming in with an attitude about a mask — it takes that totally out of play,” Zwillenberg said.
Matt McMunn, a manager at Atomic Provisions, says with the amount of backlash from customers and those who do not comply, he does not think a mask mandate is necessary.
“It’s like you didn’t clean your room well enough so you’re getting punished like a little child. So it’s frustrating in that aspect,” McMunn said.
Zwillenberg and McMunn both say when the mask mandate went away following vaccinations and then came back, it was even more difficult to handle customers. Even worse, for the Westport Flea Market, they saw their business revenue take a hit.
“A restaurant usually makes about 15%, so if you lose 20% of your business, your margin just went down to about 5%,” Zwillenberg said. “It has hurt the business a little bit, but at the end of the day, I can’t control that. So I have to figure out ways to make sure my business is relevant, and that’s what a small business is all about — deciding what’s best for your business and moving forward.”
Zwillenberg and McMunn both say their biggest worry is reverting back to capped capacity.