Mesa County has been touting it’s “Variance Protection” (“Five Star”) program as the key to keeping businesses open amid the pandemic, and while the goals of the program are laudable, the widespread lack of enforcement, particularly of masking requirements, can unfortunately create a climate of additional threats to patrons, and not just to their health.
The requirements to participate in the program aren’t clear because they aren’t listed on the Mesa County Health Departments’ web page about the program. Rather, an embedded YouTube video on the page infers that the requirements of the program include wearing masks, keeping patrons physically distanced from one another and staying home if you’re sick, which we have to assume is targeted at employees, since the program is aimed at businesses and not customers. The idea is to provide the public with a sense of safety, so they will be comfortable enough to come out and patronize local businesses and help keep them afloat.
All that’s 5-Star is not Gold
The overall goals of the program are great, but in some cases the 5 Star Program is actually backfiring by creating expectations among patrons that often are unfulfilled, and when patrons voice their disappointment by describing the lapses to employees, the patrons get targeted with harassment, intimidation and even threats.
An example is the following situation experienced by people who patronized a “5 Star”-rated restaurant earlier this month. They described the experience as follows:
“[On] Fri 4 Dec, a friend and I ate breakfast at Las Marias, Main and 7th, 9 am. Within a few minutes of us being seated, 8 folks from 4 groups were seated w/o masks. 2 folks coughed continuously.
On my receipt, I explained to the waitress that I was not leaving a tip because this Mesa Health Department 5-star rated restaurant, was not following 5-star standards. I also wrote that I would be reporting them to the Health Department, and I did. Las Marias put my receipt online and it eventually wound up on the Mesa County Deplorables site [a Facebook page for proudly ill-mannered Trump supporters]. My friend was phoned and texted with harassing and even threatening messages from Friday till Monday. I was not contacted, even though my name was on my receipt.
The upshot is that restaurants which are advertised by Mesa Health Department as meeting high Covid standards, like Las Marias and Rockslide, seat patrons closer than 6 feet, allow wait staff to wear masks below their noses, and allow unmasked patrons to congregate near entrance/exit doors.”
The companion at the meal offered the following additional information. [This is an excerpt]:
“I originally posted [to a Facebook page] about The Rockslide and Las Marias [not complying with the 5-Star Program requirements] and the thread got hijacked by the waitstaff at Las Marias who posted the bottom half of [the companion’s] receipt, where she had not paid a tip and wrote a note. Her signature was visible. After I tried to explain that I wasn’t the person on the receipt … The admins removed the entire thread. Someone … screen shotted it and posted it again … Then I started getting veiled threats and ‘Shame on You’s’ from people I did not know, including one by phone….”
Businesses can be removed from the 5 Star program for noncompliance, but it falls on customers to report violations to the Health Department, and when customers give the establishments a heads-up about the problems they see, the customers open themselves up to harassment, threats and intimidation.
AnneLandmanBlog tried contacting the restaurant involved in this exchange via email, but hasn’t heard back. If and when they respond, their response will be posted here.