NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- The debate over wearing masks in public continues to play out over social media, between friends and locally inside businesses.

One local ice cream shop is begging for their customers to be patient and follow the rules following a series of unruly interactions.

The rule “no shirt, no shoes, no service” has been followed for decades with little pushback, but the owner of Herrell’s Ice Cream in Northampton said “no face mask, no service” has been met with yelling, rude behavior and items thrown at her workers.

“People don’t want to social distance and they don’t care how many people we have as an occupancy rate,” said Judy Herrell, owner of the shop.

Before COVID-19, the neighborhood corner ice cream shop is the last place people would expect someone to be in a bad mood.

But Herrell said recently, her employees have had difficulty enforcing face mask and social distancing rules.

“Did you see the ice cream get tossed at Hallie,” she asked an employee.

Employees said some people are not understanding that in a global pandemic, the customer may not always be right.

“We do have to follow rules and as an employee and as someone in charge here, I do have to make sure that these are followed,” said Gregory McManus, shop employee.

“A business can decline entry to a customer who refuses to wear a mask for nonmedical reasons,” Attorney Joe Pacella said.

With the debate continuing over personal freedoms and face coverings, Western Mass News spoke with an attorney.

He said businesses cannot refuse services to people over discriminatory reasons like race or ancestry, but had a different answer for masks.

“Wearing a mask is not one of those protected classes, and in fact pursuant to Gov. Baker’s executive order, businesses are required to enforce the wearing of masks,” Pacella said.

For Herrell, she said enforcing these rules and policies has created the biggest challenge in the shop’s 40 years in business.

“The hardest summer we’ve ever had, and I don’t mean financially,” she said. “Yes, it is the hardest financially, as well, but there are more angry people out there right now who say, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’”

Although indoor dining is now allowed in Massachusetts, Herrell said she has limited space.

For that reason and more, she’s taking social distancing a step further and asking all her customers to comply.

There are only two now allowed to eat inside the store.

“Max and Maven Bear,” she said.

Herrell said the reason she is sticking to the rules is that her shop is popular with families and wants to avoid children and parents contracting the virus.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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