Most Hanover businesses lift masking requirements

Many restaurants and clothing stores quickly lifted their own mask requirements after the Town lifted their mask mandate.

by Griselda Chavez | 7/2/21 5:00am

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by Julia Levine / The Dartmouth

Following the Hanover Selectboard’s decision to suspend the mask ordinance on June 14, just after Commencement, many businesses in town also lifted their individual mask requirements for customers. Some businesses still require their employees to remain masked, however, and some more intensive cleaning policies and other health protocols remain in place.

In an emailed statement, town manager Julia Griffin wrote that local businesses were notified by the Upper Valley Business Alliance on June 8 that the Hanover Selectboard planned to suspend the mask ordinance on June 14. 

According to The J List manager Ruthie Murray, the women’s clothing store has “officially put away [their] masks,” as of June 18, as all of the store’s employees had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for more than a month.

“Certainly anyone is free to wear one if they’re more comfortable, staff and customers included,” Murray said. “Everybody who works here, though, is fully vaccinated and so most of us have stopped wearing them.”

Despite masks being optional, Murray found that “roughly half” of the store’s customers continue to wear a mask. According to Murray, many customers enter the building either wearing a mask or with one in hand and tend to ask if masks are mandatory indoors. 

Murray said that as an “optimist,” she does not expect to go back to masks unless directed by the town, citing her store’s cleaning policies and the vaccinated status of her employees. However, she added that if it is necessary for the business to adhere to such policies, The J List will comply. 

“It’s been nice for us to really be able to see people’s initial reactions when you’re talking to them,” Murray said.

Similarly, The Nest Kitchen head barista Clara Boland said that there is no requirement for vaccinated workers or customers to wear a mask as of June 14.

“Everyone who has their vaccine, we do not require them to wear their mask — customer or worker,” Boland said. “We have our staff show us that they have been vaccinated, but with our customers, it’s more based on trust.

Dunk’s Sports Grill general manager Alex LaCroix said that the restaurant owner’s policy is that neither staff nor customers are required to wear masks as of June 15. 

“With the majority of our team members being vaccinated, we were very excited to hear the news, so we lifted the mask mandate internally — for guests and for team members,” LaCroix said. 

LaCroix added that Dunk’s is maintaining the sanitation policies that have been in place since its opening this May. Dunk’s also recently returned to a full guest capacity, but this change is unrelated to the removal of Hanover’s mask mandate, according to LaCroix.

Ramunto’s Brick and Brew Pizzeria’s mask policy differs in that staff members are required to wear masks regardless of their vaccination status, said owner Kim Cullen. According to Cullen, they “encourage” customers to still wear a mask inside.

“[Our] staff is wearing [masks], and we are doing that because we want to make sure everyone feels comfortable coming in,” Cullen said.

In addition, Cullen said that Ramunto’s is also continuing safety measures such as a daily health screening of staff members, contact tracing, specific cleaning procedures and reduction of seating capacity. 

Tuk Tuk Thai Cuisine owner Pannipa Pace said that she decided her employees will still wear masks because it feels “normal” to have one on, but that masks are optional for customers. 

The Hanover Co-op lifted its mask mandate for customers Thursday, holding off longer than other local businesses to allow more people to finish becoming vaccinated, according to a June 17 blog post from general manager Paul Guidone. However, employees and vendors are still required to wear a mask until the business reaches an “internal vaccination rate similar to our surrounding states.” 

Hanover’s mask mandate pause came about two months after New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, let the state mask mandate expire on April 15. But Cullen said that Hanover’s delay in lifting its own mandate did not bother him.

“I think the town is in a tough spot. I think everybody’s just trying to do the right thing,” Cullen said. “I’m not one that’s really harsh on everybody’s decision, and I think it’s great that everything is going in the right direction. I’m just happy we are getting through this.”

“We understood that there was a much bigger picture in place for us to contribute,” La Croix said. “We were happy to do so — and we had no backlash from our team members, and the majority of the guests were reliable.”

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