MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The City of Memphis is relying on businesses to help enforce a new mask ordinance. The ordinance requires people to wear facial coverings while inside businesses, public buildings and on public transport in Memphis.
Code enforcement can cite you if you aren’t wearing your mask inside these public spaces. For now, there is no monetary fine attached to the citation. The city says its focusing on education before punishment.
Michael Shook arrived in Memphis from out of town Thursday night. Thankfully he packed his mask.
“Everyone was wearing it in the barbershop,” Shook said.
“It’s honestly kind of sad we had to have it go into effect for people to start wearing them again,” said mask wearer Brandy Sims.
A week after City Council passed the ordinance Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland signed it Thursday. Memphis’ Chief Legal Officer Jennifer Sink said enforcement will work like it did under the safer-at-home order.
“We have 311 set up for people to call or use the app to file a complaint and that will be routed to code enforcement,” said Sink.
Sink said enforcement will be largely complaint-driven, but punishment won’t be the first step.
“Really talking to the manager or owner about the complaint that was made,” said Sink. “Making sure they understand what the ordinance says, educating them and the people inside their business.”
Sink said business owners play a big role in making the ordinance work. Some businesses told us they plan to comply with the new ordinance, but maintain some ways they can accommodate all their customers.
“On the outside of our door I have a full menu list,” said Jessica Bobo with Margie’s 901 Ice Cream. “If a person doesn’t want to come in and says they don’t want to put a mask on, we treat it like a drive-thru. I’ll short order outside.”
“If they come in without a mask we’ll say ‘Hey welcome to Huey’s we apologize but we’re following the city’s ordinance we have masks available for you,’” said Huey’s Midtown General Manager Hollis Ranson.
The ordinance says at restaurants and bars you still need to wear a mask, but can take it off once you’re seated.
Like at Huey’s, workers at Margie’s 901 Downtown has masks on hand for those who walk in without one.
The ordinance does not require masks outside.
Business owners do not know how the ordinance will affect their customers, but they’re optimistic.
“We hope yes they’ll come in and feel safe at Huey’s,” said Ranson.
“Now to bring everyone out and make them feel comfortable by just wearing a mask I think it’s actually helping my business,” said Bobo.
Sink said if you are cited, it will be reviewed by the municipal judge. You may have to pay court costs which are not to exceed $20 according to the ordinance.
This ordinance ends when we are no longer under a state of emergency.