A man has been charged with trespassing after refusing to leave a Coldstream business while not wearing a mask Tuesday afternoon.
The incident took place at Alexander’s Beach Pub and Liquor Store. Police were requested for assistance at the Kalamalka Road business on Feb. 23. An officer arrived around 4:15 p.m. and was told by staff that a man — who was present when police arrived — had entered the business without wearing a mask, according to an RCMP statement released Wednesday.
When employees advised the man of the store’s mandatory mask-wearing policy in keeping with COVID-19 guidelines, the man became belligerent and began berating staff members.
The owner had asked the man to leave the property, which he refused to do. The owner then called the police for assistance. When the RCMP officer could not persuade the man to leave willingly, the man was arrested and removed on the basis of trespassing.
Owner Gary Batula says disputes with customers about wearing masks happens on a daily basis at the pub and liquor store, and more than a year into the pandemic the stress of these incidents is beginning to wear on his staff.
“We’re starting to get frustrated,” he said. “We’re doing what we’re told to do by health-care professionals and the government, and people just don’t want to listen to that, they don’t think it’s right, they don’t believe it, it’s fake news.”
Whatever disagreements people may have about the pandemic restrictions in B.C., Batula says it doesn’t make sense to vent frustration on a store clerk.
“You’re not fixing the problem, you’re not making it better.”
Batula said the man remained in the store for about half an hour after being asked to wear a mask or vacate the property. Batula added the man appeared to have come prepared for an argument.
“The fellow had a notepad,” he said.
Throughout the pandemic, a number of local businesses have had to contend with patrons whose personal views on COVID-19 are misaligned with their store policies. Const. Chris Terleski, media relations officer with the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP, offered a reminder that businesses have the right to impose conditions on their services that adhere to public health guidance.
“Businesses are not public property, they are private property, and owners and staff have a right to refuse service to those who do not abide by the conditions set out in the public health orders,” said Terleski. “Regardless of our personal opinions and beliefs, we must conduct ourselves in a civil manner and abusive or belligerent behaviour is never the answer and there is no place in our community for it.”
The incident is currently under investigation, Terleski said.