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Businesses can enforce their own safety policies, legal expert says

Business owners can turn away customers who don't abide by COVID-19 safety rules

ORLANDO, Fla. – Some local business owners are wondering if they have a right to refuse service to customers who won’t wear a mask. The answer is yes, according to a local attorney, but with some conditions.

“If the policy is no mask, no service, what the business needs to do to assure they are not sued, is to make sure that policy isn’t being applied in a discriminatory manner,” said News 6 legal expert Steven Kramer. “As long as a business provides accommodations under the ADA, it’s well within the rights of the business. Just like a no shirt, no shoes, no service policy.”

News 6 spoke with the owner of the Hammered Lamb restaurant and bar, who is frustrated after he says customers are growing complacent and ignoring his social distancing rules.

“We’ve had several situations where people are like, ‘No, we’re going to do what we want to do,’” Jason Lamberts said. “I had one person, I was working last Friday night, he physically grabbed a hold of my arm, and was like ‘You can’t tell me what to do.’ And I’m like, ‘In my place I sure can. Get out.‘”

He released a letter in a social media post saying customers who don’t respect their policies will be asked to leave immediately. He said it’s all for the safety of his staff and customers. Some people in Orlando say if local restaurants and bars ramped up safety efforts requiring a mask, they’d be fine with it.

“It doesn’t bother me at all, sometimes it’s difficult to breathe. But doing it so people don’t die, I can do it,” Sofia Stuart said.

“Ultimately it’s your choice if you don’t want to go because of a mask. Everyone’s doing their part to try to keep the numbers down,” Noah Bennett said.

Kramer said customers do have rights when it comes to the policies of businesses if that policy is discriminatory against things like their race or disability.

Starting Saturday, anyone in Orange County, including within the city limits of Orlando, will be required to wear a face mask out in public under a new mandate by Mayor Jerry Demings.


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