SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Starting Friday, most essential businesses in Santa Barbara will require all customers and employees to wear masks or face coverings.
The new rule comes after a unanimous vote by the Santa Barbara City Council earlier this week.
Essential businesses listed in the emergency order include: pharmacies and drug stores; grocery stores, restaurants and other food retail; organizations providing public services; hardware stores and nurseries; laundromats and dry cleaners; hotels and motels; and taxis, ride-sharing vehicles and other private transportation services.
The order says those essential businesses "shall prohibit the entry of each person who is not wearing a face mask."
MTD buses will also require riders to wear masks or face coverings, beginning Tuesday, May 5.
The reaction in Santa Barbara to the new rule has been mixed.
“Before we passed the ordinance, people were telling us, ‘Please do it,’” Santa Barbara mayor Cathy Murillo said. “Now that we did it, we’re getting a couple of complaints. People think that we’re overreaching. But if we’re overreaching, it’s because we’re trying to protect the public health.”
The mayor suggests a local website, sbcmasknetwork.org, for those looking to buy or sell masks in the area.
Homemade masks, like scarves, bandannas and even T-shirts, are encouraged as well as other masks. Murillo says people should not buy N-95 masks, however, as those should be saved for health care workers.
Murillo says that customers will get warnings if they disobey the new rule, but that there will be no criminal punishment. She clarified that essential businesses not requiring employees to wear masks could eventually face a misdemeanor if the infractions become serious enough.
“I know it’s uncomfortable,” Murillo said, adding that the city’s population has done a “great” job of following health orders so far. “I know it’s something that people will have to get used to. But if we’re careful right now and stop the spread of the virus, we’ll get to that place where we can have more freedoms.”
San Andres Hardware on Santa Barbara's Westside will be one of the businesses adjusting to the new rule starting Friday.
“It just makes it a little more difficult when people are talking close to us,” Owner Kathy Guzman said. “It’s nice when they’re wearing their masks.”
Guzman says most customers are respectful and eager to help a local small business, and that most wear masks in the store. But she also says the mask issue has been difficult to navigate with some customers, who are "timid" or uncomfortable adjusting to a new normal.
Even with a busier shop more recently, it's also tough to think about turning away customers in the current economic climate.
“It’s hard because you don’t wanna discourage business away either,” she said. “And you don’t want to make anybody feel uncomfortable. And it’s a very sensitive subject for everybody.”
At San Andres, there are now masks available for purchase at the counter, an option for those do not have one but want to shop.