Knoxville businesses and the new mask mandate: how inside will look different

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE)- Starting Friday a mask mandate will go into effect in Knox County, requiring anyone 12 and older in indoor public spaces to wear a face covering.

That list of public places of course includes most retail stores and restaurants and bars.

At Bed’r Mattress, customers will notice a new sign posted on the door about face masks, but it’s not a sign saying you must wear one to shop inside.

It reads: “Upon entering, please let us know your preference on face coverings while shopping. We will keep 6 ft of distance from you while you visit our store.”

Mike Thompson, part owner of the mattress company, said his stores have added several new practices in order to keep the customers safe, and help them feel safer.

“Having the ability, and being blessed, to be able to open back up, we kind of took some proactive steps in; we provide our customers with a pillow case to put on pillows as they go try mattresses around,” Thompson said.

The stores also have hand sanitizer when you first walk in and at the check out desk, and employees wear face masks, but usually only when a customer prefers it.

Thompson said his stores will gladly do whatever it can to remain open and do their part in the community, but they also want the customers to feel comfortable and safe while shopping for their mattresses.

“I’m not gonna say, ‘if you come in and not wearing a mask, leave.’ If you come in and say ‘will you please wear a mask?’ I’m going to be more than happy to put on one,” Thompson said.

Retail stores work a little differently though, when it comes to how many people are inside at the same time.

As a restaurant, bar and arcade, Token Game Tavern typically has more than three or four people inside at once that they have to worry about.

Marya Barry, shift leader at Token, said the mask mandate wouldn’t change how their bar operates too much.

She said Token has implemented many of the guidelines the county and state required ever since it reopened.

Employees wear masks and gloves, no one is allowed to sit by the bar, tables have been removed to ensure 50% capacity, and they even changed the arcade system so customers didn’t use shared coins.

Instead of customers sharing board games from a stockpile that Token owns, customers now have to either buy a brand new board game at the bar, or bring their own in to reduce common-touched items.

Token also hired an employee to specifically disinfect all tables, chairs and games between each patron.

The only difference with the new mandate will be requiring customers to wear masks, but Barry said that shouldn’t be too hard.

“We’ve had a huge supportive base that has already complied with our social distancing norms now, that I don’t really think it’s going to be much of an issue,” Barry said.

“A lot of our customers have been coming in with face masks for the most part, and they’ll put the mask on when they play games and they’ll take it off when they sit at the table and eat,” Barry added.

She said Token will offer face masks if a customer doesn’t have one.

Similar to Thompson, Barry said Token will do whatever it needs to to stay open and make the customers happy.

“For us, it’s just customary. I mean, we follow what gets sent down to us and we’ll do anything to stay in business and to try and keep our customers happy and everyone happy,” Barry said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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