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Despite Florida registering 3,255 new coronavirus cases and 147 deaths yesterday, a Florida bar is now kicking out customers who want to wear face masks.
“We find it completely unnecessary to have face masks at all. We do not support them; we do not believe in them,” said Westside Sports Bar and Lounge owner Gary Kirby to WESH earlier this week.
Calling it a “security issue,” the West Melbourne bar, located in a strip mall at 3026 W. New Haven Ave., recently instituted a ban on face masks, going as far as kicking out patrons who prefer to wear them.
According to Fox News, Kirby says the new rule is in place because his bar was burglarized. However, Kirby also says the burglary was an inside job. A spokesperson for the West Melbourne Police Department told Fox News that while Kirby has in fact filed a police report, he has been "uncooperative" with the burglary investigation and has refused to meet with detectives.
So far, the decision to ban masks has created a slew of mixed reviews on Westside Sports Bar and Lounge’s Facebook business page. While some call Kirby a “patriot,” others say it’s “run by covidiots.”
The bar has also been accused of racism. One post provided a photo of a receipt that claims the business referred to their table as “mexicans.” In one exchange with a Facebook commenter asking why there’s a sign prohibiting masks, the business replied: “masks pose as a security hazard if surveillance were to be requested by law enforcement. We have had zero cases of the china virus here at the establishment and capitalize on bringing normalcy to the world as we know it.”
Earlier this week, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that masks may be a more effective protection against coronavirus than any potential vaccine, which the U.S public may not see until next year.
"I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70%. And if I don't get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me. This face mask will," Redfield told lawmakers during public testimony.
On Monday, Florida bars were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity for indoor dining and are required to keep tables six-feet apart. Brevard County, where Westside Sports Bar and Lounge is located, does not mandate that businesses require patrons to wear masks before entering.
This story originally appeared in our sister paper Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
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