ST. CHARLES, Mo. (KMOV.com) – Small business owners on Main Street in St. Charles say customers refusing to wear a mask have verbally abused their employees.

Erica Priest owns “Sweet Poppins” on Main Street and requires all customers who enter the store to wear a mask. She says she provides masks but says many customers are still refusing to wear them.

“When she said, ‘in order for me to help you, you need to wear a mask,’ the woman got really upset, called her the b-word and walked out,” said Priest.

Employee Kelsey Carnes says one woman threw a fit and refused to leave the store.

"I've actually had one lady come in where we had to call the police," said Carnes. “She was mad she had to wear one, so went crazy and started knocking everything down.”

A business owner down the street said she has had similar trouble with customers. Angela Wiechens, the owner of Riverside Sweets, used to require masks.

“We started out requiring them and after a lot of argument, we let them in. If they don’t (have one), we say we have one, but we don’t make them wear one,” said Wiechens.

Wiechens says she changed the store’s policy after she says customers started yelling at employees, refusing to wear masks. Some even took napkins to cover their faces.

“We have a lot of younger girls who work here, and we had some older men come in and kind of yell at them, tell them they can’t make them do anything, this is America,” said Wiechens.

Unlike St. Louis County and St. Louis City, masks are not mandated in St. Charles County, only highly encouraged. Priest says that puts blame back on business owners.

“I feel like we’re not getting the support, getting the backing that we need to make our streets safe,” Priest says.

Priest and her husband sent an email to St. Charles Mayor Dan Borgmeyer and Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, saying:

Mayor Dan Borgmeyer, Executive Steve Elhmann & Governor Parson,

Over the past few months the City & County of St Charles has “highly encouraged” businesses and patrons to wear masks. But, our government leaders are too afraid to make wearing masks mandatory in public spaces. This poor leadership is cowardly and has pushed the policing of masks on business owners and employees.

I own a small business on Main Street in St Charles. Per the recommendation of the City & County, we do enforce customers to wear masks in our store. We even offer free masks to our customers. These masks are provided free from the City of St Charles.

However, as we enforce the use of masks we are too often confronted with anger and verbal abuse. We have teenage employees who are often called “the B – word” because they are following common sense guidance to keep everyone safe.

Enforcement of public health and safety is everyone’s responsibility. It should also be a primary concern of state and local governments. If someone walks into our store pantsless, we don’t allow it while chalking it up to constitutional rights of free expression.

All medical professionals agree: the best way to limit the spread of Covid-19 is for everyone to wear a mask. Yet our government leadership is too scared to make commonsense decisions to protect our citizens. They are too scared to do what is right and still allow for our economy to be open. It is simple – require everyone to wear a mask in public spaces. It is just common sense. In fact, 32 states have figured this out yet Missouri leadership is not strong enough to make simple decisions. Something that should be a basic public-health issue has become politicized.

I call on you now to be a leader. Business owners in your community are asking for your help.

Mayor Dan, Executive Ehlmann, Governor Parsons: It is time to do the right thing. Make masks mandatory for everyone in public spaces throughout St Charles County.

“Take a stand and protect us small businesses that are out here, trying to make it through this time,” said Priest.

Borgmeyer says he has been receiving a lot of calls about masks, saying callers have been split. He says a mask mandate is unenforceable but is reminding business to refuse service to customers not wearing them.

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