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Police Say Mask Disputes at Businesses Could Land Customers in Jail

Even though the mask mandate has been lifted in Indiana, a number of local businesses are still requiring them, leading to conflicts with patrons. The Evansville Police Department says while they have not arrested anyone yet, they warn they could if you’re not obeying the businesses' rules and are asked to leave but refuse.

Posted: Apr 8, 2021 7:27 PM

Allyson Woods, manager at Penny Lane Coffee House, is one of the many business owners asking customers to still keep their masks on.

In fact, a few customers have almost had to be asked to leave after becoming argumentative.

"We’ve definitely had a few unruly ones,” Woods said. "Some of them walk out and some of them roll their eyes and put the mask on anyways and carry on."

Over at Sixth and Zero, if customers make a fuss -- owner Mary Allen is going to avoid confrontation at any costs.

"We'll ask people kindly and offer them a mask,” Allen said. “If they continue and adamantly refuse -- we will still serve them."

The decision was made with her employee’s safety in mind.

"I don't want to put our staff in harm’s way,” she said. “It's not worth it."

And while the health department won’t be able to do so much but offer advice to business owners, police can step in and forcibly remove these customers, arresting them for trespassing.

"If a business requires a mask and a person refuses, the most we can do is ask that person to leave,” said Sgt. Nick Winsett with the Evansville Police Department. “But it would be a trespassing thing. And that just boils down to -- the management doesn't want them there -- it has nothing to do with whether they are wearing a mask or not."

Business owners ask customers to respect their decision.

"If we know what stores require masks and stores don't," Allen said. "You can choose where you want to shop and where you don't want to work and there is beauty in the freedom of that.”

While police ask the public to remain peaceful.

"There's other establishments in town that have not required people to wear masks," Sgt. Winsett said. "Just visit their establishments instead. It's not worth an argument -- calling us instead."

Many downtown Evansville business owners say they plan to re-evaluate their decision to still require masks in May, once their staff are fully vaccinated.

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