Nashua officials have adopted a revised mask mandate that prohibits businesses from serving patrons who are not wearing face masks.
Aldermen voted 13-2 Tuesday to support the proposal, which has drawn praise and criticism from the community.
“We are extremely disappointed,” Nancy Kyle of the New Hampshire Retail Association said Wednesday.
While the New Hampshire Retail Association has no issue with mask mandates, she said, the organization does not believe that employees who are not trained to defuse conflict should be put in a position to enforce the ordinance.
The amended mask mandate states that “no business and no employee of any business shall provide goods or services to any person not complying with face covering requirements … no business and no employee of any business shall permit a person to remain on its premises in violation of these requirements.”
“The majority of people I talk to in Nashua are strongly in support of this ordinance,” said Alderman Richard Dowd, who pointed out that wearing masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus is endorsed by a vast majority of scientists and doctors.
Alderman Skip Cleaver said the board had a “moral obligation” to enact the law.
“It is the least we can do to protect our citizens, and I think we have to do it,” Cleaver said.
Alderman Tom Lopez agreed, saying his constituents do not want to lose family members and friends because of the pandemic.
The ordinance subjects employees and business owners to a fine of up to $1,000 — determined by the court — if they are found guilty of providing services to someone who isn’t wearing a mask.
“My main concern, still, is shifting some liability back onto businesses,” said Alderman David Tencza.
He and Alderman Ben Clemons voted against the revised ordinance. He also said he has concerns about how police will be involved in enforcing the ordinance.
According to Police Chief Mike Carignan, the revised ordinance is necessary to help police enforce the mandate.
“We are not looking to penalize businesses,” said Carignan.
Still, he said there are some businesses that are defying the mask mandate, and the police department receives repeated complaints. The ordinance allows police to assist businesses if they have customers not abiding by the face mask rules, Carignan said.
“They should call us — that is what we are there for,” he said.
Catherine Norton, owner of Norton’s Classic Cafe on Main Street, said in a letter to aldermen that neither she nor her husband support the stricter mask mandate.
“Enough is enough,” said Norton, adding her business was already required to shut down for three months and is now only open at 50 percent capacity.
“I hear people’s concerns, but I also know that this is a public health issue,” Alderwoman Shoshanna Kelly said. “I think we need to continue being a leader on this.”
On Monday, Nashua City Hall shut its doors for two weeks after a total of six city employees tested positive for COVID-19, including Mayor Jim Donchess.