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Customer becomes angry, violent with SLC small business employees over mask mandate enforcement

Posted at 8:24 PM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 13:24:02-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A locally-owned business says its employees were berated by a man who refused to comply with a Salt Lake County health order requiring the use of face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The incident happened at Smoke Break Hookah Outlet in Salt Lake City Monday afternoon.

Mary Palmer was working behind the counter when the customer walked in without a mask.

“I told him, ‘Hey, if you don't have a mask you can put on, I’ve got them by the door,’” Palmer said.

Palmer said instead of putting on a face covering provided by the store, the customer directed insults at her.

Co-workers came to her defense and the confrontation escalated.

“He took a swing at my co-worker,” Palmer described. “I don’t know if he was trying to hit his body or just his hand with the phone in it. He ended up hitting his hand and sent his phone flying.”

At that point, the man left the store.

“He admitted he was arguing for nothing,” Palmer said.

She wants people to know the strain store workers have endured since the pandemic began.

“We’re not trying to inconvenience anyone,” she said. “We are just trying to keep people safe, do our jobs and keep our doors open.”

READ: Salt Lake County Council to schedule special meeting on mask mandate

Palmer said she hopes situations like this don’t become the norm as the store tries to safely navigate an ever-changing landscape with the threat of the virus.

“The golden rule — the thing we learned in kindergarten — just treat others like you want to be treated,” she said.

The store owner called the non-emergency line of Salt Lake City Police and plans to file a report.