Missoula restaurants grapple with mask enforcement; even BBQ joint sees backlash

(KPAX) Some Missoula businesses are facing backlash from customers for enforcing the Governor’s mask directive. The Missoula BBQ joint, Notorious P.I.G., said one customer caused a scene recently by refusing to wear a mask in the restaurant.

“We’re not a political organization. We sell pulled pork sandwiches,” said owner Burke Holmes.

Holmes said they’ve already had to ban one man from the restaurant for refusing to wear a mask, and being rude to staff.

“We can’t have people that are breaking the law in the first place. We’ve got a good thing going on, and if you’re going to treat us that way, you can’t be a part of it,” Holmes said.

Holmes said a few customers have berated the staff for enforcing county and state mask orders, but most customers are following the rules.

“I’ve got a responsibility to my staff here, and our patrons here, and the people that clock in that I’m lucky enough to work with every single day that are also navigating this weird time on a personal level,” Holmes said.

Holmes said it’s not fun forcing employees to wear masks, but he’s going to obey the order.

“We’ve got a really really hot kitchen. No one really loves wearing them back there, but everyone understands that there’s a responsibility to the greater public and the greater good of everything that’s going on.”

Holmes said there really hasn’t been that much trouble, because most of the customers are here for the food. And once you get your food, you can still take your mask off to eat.

Customer Rhiannon Buhr said the masks are uncomfortable, but she still wants to get out.

“Its horrible. But I will do it.”

The Missoula City-County Health Department said that since the mask order went into effect, it’s gotten almost 300 complaints about businesses not complying with the rule.

“We are multitudes of times busier,” said Environmental Health Director Shannon Therriault. She also said they’re also getting hundreds of calls from businesses seeking guidance, and that most of Missoula was in immediate compliance.

“That really helped to create the expectation, not just on individual businesses but community wide, that this is how Missoula was going to handle going through the pandemic.”

Therriault said the mask order is just like any other rule people have to follow.

The health department said businesses have the option to accommodate for people that don’t want to wear masks, like offering curbside pickup or delivery.