Shelby County Health Department to no longer require masks in restaurants

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 10:33 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Business owners have an important decision to make over the next few days, one that will impact their staff and their customers.

Masking up is about to become a “recommendation” in Shelby County instead of a mandate.

For Mose Frazier, perfect Memphis weather on Wednesday called for dinner on the patio at Overton Square. Sitting outside on a nice, breezy evening with their masks off was a much needed respite from the stress of the pandemic.

“You want to take it off so bad,” Frazier said. “You feel like you’re going to get fired if you take it off at work. It’s hard having it on your face all day. We all feel like we’re ninja turtles right now.”

Mose and his girlfriend Terria Doty say they cannot wait for the new Shelby County Health Department (SCHD) health directive to start Saturday, May 15. It loosens some COVID-19 restrictions, including making masking up optional, instead of mandatory.

“I’m ok with that because I’m trying to breathe again,” said Doty.

Mike Miller, president of the Memphis Restaurant Association, says it’s a welcome change after such a difficult year in his industry. But leaving the mask decision up to each business owner, he says, could create confusion or frustration for customers.

“There are going to be some situations that are just no-win situations,” Miller said. “Whether it’s masks or the way COVID gets handled with best practices, everybody seems to have different opinions. So, there’s no way you’re going to make everybody happy.”

Mose and Doty look forward to Memphis getting closer to it’s “new” normal, and to making their own masking decisions.

“I mean, to each his own,” said Doty. “To each his own. And I’ll keep it there, because there’s a lot of debate with COVID around the world.”

“Folks are going to be out here,” Frazier said. “I’m not going to lie. They are going to be back out here!”

According to SCHD, people who work in the health industry will still have to wear masks.

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