The Boise Police Department says city businesses have made at least 50 requests for support since Mayor Lauren McLean’s newest pandemic health order went into effect on Nov. 23.

At least one person was cited for misdemeanor trespassing, Haley Williams, a spokesperson for the Police Department, told the Statesman on Tuesday. In that instance, someone had been asked to leave a store on Broadway Avenue multiple times over several days and refused.

That person was not arrested, but the citation comes with a fine, Williams said. Some businesses have had to make multiple requests.

Under state law, first-offense trespassing comes with a $300 fine if the violator leaves when asked and hasn’t damaged property, or a $500 to $1,000 fine plus up to six months in jail if the violator refuses to leave but no damage was committed. Damage and subsequent offenses trigger stiffer penalties.

“Sometimes, when people learn the police have been called, they’ll leave on their own,” she said by phone. “Other times, police get there and say, ‘Hey, you’re going to get a trespassing citation if you don’t leave,’ and then the person leaves. Compliance or other resolutions are also on the table.”

In other cases, however, businesses are finding themselves on the receiving end of clusters of unmasked people appearing and refusing to leave the premises of a business.

A group of six anti-mask protesters came to Blue Sky Bagels, 407 W. Main St., on Saturday with the intent to cause a scene, employee Megan Nordby said by phone.

“They came in with a group of six with no masks, and they were recording us,” she said. “They started going off on me about how I can’t kick people out for not wearing a mask, which is not something Blue Sky does.”

They didn’t buy anything while they were there and spent about 10 minutes in the shop. They handed her a paper that reiterated their points.

“I just let them ramble on until they left, and I tore up that paper,” she said.

The Police Department said in a tweet Tuesday that it is following up with businesses that had those types of protests on Saturday, including working with the prosecutor’s office to issue citations to suspects who were identified.

Jennifer Hensley, executive director for the Downtown Boise Association, said by phone that she witnessed incidents at two shops during the past week where people got upset after being asked to wear a mask.

Woman throws muffin, man starts fight

“I saw a lady get upset at a cashier and throw a muffin,” said Hensley, declining to name the business. “In another incident, a gentleman was warned to wear his mask when he was walking around. When he was asked to put a mask on his face after multiple warnings, he pulled it off his face and tried to fight someone.”

The idea that people are going to stores in groups to harass employees over the mask rule is frightening, she said, because it’s disheartening for workers, and it changes the entire mood inside a business.

“Wearing a face covering will keep businesses open,” Hensley said. “We’re hopeful that the new enforcement options that came from the mayor’s office will be helpful.”

The health order requires people to wear a face covering in public and to socially distance whenever possible, much like McLean’s prior coronavirus orders. This one, however, is being enforced. The earlier orders had mandatory provisions, but the city relied on education and avoided citations or arrests.

Albertsons stations employees at entrances

Following McLean’s new mask order, Albertsons stores in Boise began stationing employees at entrances to serve as greeters and ensure customers are wearing masks when they enter.

“They offer disposable masks if they don’t have one and remind them of the mask mandate,” spokesperson Kathy Holland said by phone.

Customers have been understanding, and there haven’t been any incidents with people confronting the greeters, she said. If someone refuses to wear a mask, store managers ask them to leave.

Mike Rogers, owner of Precious Metal Arts jewelry store at 280 N. 8th St, placed a sign on his window Tuesday telling people not to come inside his small shop unless they’re wearing a mask. No exceptions.

If someone has a medical condition that keeps them from wearing a mask, Rogers’ sign says he’ll be happy to meet them outside.

“If you’re one of the morons protesting the mask ordinance, stay out,” the sign reads. “I will consider it to be an assault if you enter and I’ll respond accordingly.”

Rogers said by phone that he became livid after hearing of other businesses being confronted for enforcing the mask requirement.

Business owner: ‘These people are selfish beyond belief’

“If that’s their attitude, they’re probably also spreading the virus,” he said. “The crux of the whole matter is that these people are just selfish beyond belief.”

A number of anti-maskers have pushed back on social media against Rogers for his sign. He said he’s not worried.

“I’m super well-known for what I do,” he said. “I’m not going to lose any clients over this. I’ll probably gain some clients. A lot of my friends in business don’t have that luxury, and I figure I can take one for the team.”

The enforcement has been largely well-received, McLean told reporters last week, by both Boiseans looking for more action and by businesses looking for support. Now, both businesses and concerned residents have the opportunity to blow the whistle on those causing problems.

People who see businesses not in compliance can call the city clerk’s office at 208-608-7040 with complaints, while businesses having problems with patrons not following their protocols can call the Boise Police Department’s non-emergency dispatch line at 208-377-6790.

The city still aims to educate businesses first. Health workers from the city are reaching out to businesses to let them know about the order and consequences for violations. Businesses that pose an immediate threat to public health will have their city licenses suspended for at least 10 days on the first violation. The second violation would be a license suspension of at least 20 days, and the third would lead to a year-long revocation.

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©2020 The Idaho Statesman (Boise, Idaho)

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