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Letter to the editor: Restaurant owner disappointed by mandate

As a business owner, the news of the Cloquet mask mandate passed Jan. 18 raised some questions and concerns.

When previous Covid-19 safety measures were implemented, I ensured that my restaurant followed all of the appropriate guidelines. I did not complain. I did not receive any write-ups or fines over the course of numerous mandates and shutdowns.

I did witness a tremendous toll on my business, my employees, and my patrons — and the most recent mask mandate has me concerned that these problems will arise yet again.

The current cost of an individual mask is averaging 40 cents, and the cost of a case of 1,000 masks is about $800 — more than a case of prime rib. As you can imagine, this means that the total cost of supplying masks for all customers and employees, even for one month, is exponential.

But, the costs of masks is only one part of the potential financial burden of a mask mandate on my business.

It is undoubtedly going to be problematic that many of our main competitors in nearby cities — such as Scanlon and Carlton — are not required to implement a mask mandate, and will result in a loss of business. Already, it is evident in Duluth stores that many customers are choosing to utilize Hermantown locations following Duluth’s recent mask mandate.

A mask mandate introduces added stress to our everyday environment at the restaurant. In the past, having to ensure that all customers were complying was taxing for my employees. I witnessed more than one instance where one of my employees got caught in the middle of something that should not have had anything to do with them — some were even brought to tears by patrons who were upset by the mask wearing, or lack thereof, of other patrons. In my opinion, it is unfair to ask servers and bartenders to implement a governmental decision in a workplace.

In an effort to negate the above concerns and hopefully gain some answers, I reached out to Mayor Maki via phone call on Jan. 19. I was disappointed by the mayor’s lack of answers and knowledge regarding the current state of the pandemic.

This was upsetting to me as a taxpayer, business owner, and resident of Cloquet.

I hope the council and mayor will consider me and the other business owners of Cloquet when voting on future mandates and other Covid-19 regulations. I understand that the current mask mandate is set to expire on Feb. 18, but I fear that there will be extensions and further implementations, as there were in the past. If this is the case, I hope we will be provided solid reasoning and empathetic communication throughout the process.

Ryan Lindstrom, Co-owner, Carmen’s Bar & Restaurant