Businesses React To Birmingham’s New Mask Order

Mary Scott Hodgin, WBHM

A sign at Yo' Mama's announces the restaurant's mask requirement.

Birmingham’s City Council approved a new citywide ordinance on Tuesday, requiring masks until May 24. Within the city of Birmingham, the mandate replaces a statewide mask order that expires on Friday.

The City Council voted eight to one to pass the measure. It is similar to previous ordinances, requiring masks in public spaces, including businesses and outdoor areas when people are gathering.

“We are in the fourth quarter of this global health pandemic,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said during a press conference Tuesday morning, “and one of the ways to continue to win this fight is to continue to wear face masks.”

Woodfin said the coronavirus is still spreading, most people in Birmingham are not vaccinated yet, and many local businesses and community members support extending the order.

Crystal Peterson, co-owner of Birmingham restaurant Yo’ Mama’s, said the mask requirement helps protect her staff and customers.

“I think it’s fit for right now,” she said. “I think it’s just the safer decision.”

Yo’ Mama’s offers outdoor dining and to-go service and also has its own mask requirement, which Peterson said is strengthened by the city order.

“With the help of the government backing it up, saying a mask is required, it makes it easier for me to impose the same rule in my establishment,” she said. 

Mary Scott Hodgin,WBHM

Crystal Peterson (right) and her mom Denise, co-owners of Yo’ Mama’s, support a city mask order.

Not everyone supports the citywide requirement. In a recent survey by the Birmingham Business Alliance, about 100 businesses said extending the mask order would be “helpful,” while 85 said it would be “harmful.” 

In one survey response, a business leader said a citywide mandate would be difficult to enforce and customers often complain about wearing masks.

Eric Johnson, a sculptor who lives outside of Birmingham but comes to town for work, said he supported previous mask mandates, but now that COVID case numbers and hospitalizations are down, it is time to start “weaning off” of the requirement. 

“The longer the mask order stays on, I think the more businesses are going to suffer,” Johnson said.

City Council Member Hunter Williams, who was the only member to vote against the local order, said it puts an “undue burden” on local businesses. He also said the fact that the requirement mandates masks during outdoor events is “ridiculous.”

The new order expires May 24, but the Birmingham City Council has until May 18 to vote on an extension. 

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