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Eugene Liquor Store Keeps Mask Mandate To Protect Staff, Customers

Tiffany Eckert

Now that most of Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, businesses may forgo requirements for physical distancing and masking—or not. This Eugene store is keeping the rule for facial coverings intact for the time being.

“It’s a store decision even though we knew it wasn’t going to be a fun decision.”

Helen Bollinger is the manager at South Eugene Liquor. She said throughout the pandemic, her store has been busy. They can see from 300 and 800 customers a day. She and her nine employees feel protected in masks.

“I guess one reason that blankets all the other reasons is that we care,” she said. “We care about our families. We care about our customers.”

Bollinger said many staff- including herself- have young children at home who can’t be vaccinated. That’s what she tells anyone who complains about the mask rule.

Credit Tiffany Eckert
Customer Cassie Pointer says she is okay with businesses choosing to keep mask mandates if it keeps employees protected.

Customer Cassie Pointer leaves the store, bag in hand and mask on.

“If it’s a business’ decision to keep on with that for their employees protection—I’m okay with that,” said Pointer.

Bollinger never knows how folks will respond to their in-store mask mandate. The other day she got a call from a woman asking if the store required facial coverings. Her tone made Bollinger think, “‘Ok, here’s another one—I’ve got to do the spiel again.’”

“And she asked if we did require masks and I said we did. And she said what about after the (June) 30th?’”

Credit Tiffany Eckert
Signage at the entrance of South Eugene Liquor.

“‘Yes, we will be requiring masks after the 30th.’”

“And she said, ‘Ok well, what’s your address?’”

“I gave her our address, told her where we’re located. And she’s like, ‘I am here in Coburg and no one’s wearing masks.’”

“And I say, ‘you know every store is individually owned and operated that is their right to do so, just as it’s our right to require masks.’”

“And she goes, ‘No, I’m happy. I’m coming to your store. I am only going to shop at your store.’”

Bollinger said it was a complete turn of events. She said she was poised and ready to defend the in-store mask rule “and yet here’s this customer who is going to shop with us because of it.”

Credit Tiffany Eckert
Helen Bollinger and her staff of nine feel safer working in masks and requiring customers to wear them while shopping in the liquor store.

The mask rule applies whether folks have a vaccination card or not. Bollinger says they do offer curbside pick-up. Just call them up, tell them what 

Credit Tiffany Eckert

you want and it will be delivered to your car.

The South Eugene Liquor store staff will decide as a team when it’s safe to drop the mask requirement.  

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.
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