Businesses mask policies vary in Topeka as stores reopen

Still In Service: Many businesses, such as The Pad, have remained open since the beginning of quarantine. As quarantine procedures are eased back, many businesses are opening their doors once more to the public. Photo Courtesy of: Troy Mentze

Local businesses in Topeka are beginning to reopen this week after spending over a month completely shut down or only partially open. This marks the next step in Governor Kelly’s plan to get the Kansas economy up and running again for the beginning of summer.

For weeks, many businesses in Topeka have been dealing with the outbreak of coronavirus as best as they can: establishing social distancing rules, placing new mask requirements on staff and customers and, in some cases, shutting down entirely. For those that were deemed ‘essential,’ they faced a variety of problems implementing new guidelines imposed by the local state government to ensure the transfer of the coronavirus was limited or halted altogether ideally.

Many businesses that kept running, including restaurants like The Pad in north Topeka and The Pennant in the downtown area, met their problems head on and have done their best to carry on. They were able to remain open with policies such as curbside pickup and drive-thru access to continue serving their regular customers.

“This isn’t what everybody wanted or expected,” said Troy Mentzer, owner/manager of the Pad. “It’s made it a lot more difficult of an environment to work in. A lot of things are changing daily and there are a lot of variables in the restaurant business already. We’ve been wearing masks, marking off tables and retraining people. We’re pretty resilient, but it’s been difficult.”

“The Pennant requires all staff members to wear a mask while on the clock, especially those in direct contact with food and customers,” said Teryl Studebaker, marketing specialist for The Pennant. “In accordance with Shawnee County phasing guidelines, we have rearranged the interior space to achieve a minimum of 6 feet distance between tables and are currently not seating at the bars. In addition, we restrict the number of guests per table to a maximum of 15.”

Many other businesses were not so fortunate to be deemed essential and stayed closed during the first weeks of the outbreak. Only recently have they begun cautiously reopening to the public. Such businesses include movie theaters, beauty salons and other stores.

“So far, all of our customers have been extremely grateful to be able to have services done again, and we haven’t had anyone complain about any of the policies we have had to implement,” said Kara Stanley, a hairstylist with the Best Little Hair House in north Topeka. “Every stylist in our shop has been extremely busy trying to get caught up on appointments that have been postponed for the last two months.”

Maintaining a clean environment for both employees and customers has been at the forefront of many business owners’ minds over the last few weeks. Implementing policies to guarantee proper social distancing rules are followed to halt the spread of the coronavirus has not been easy, but it has made many feel safer while going about their business.

“Everyone that has a service done as well as all stylists are required to wear a mask,” said Mrs. Stanley. “Each person must wait in their car until their stylist is ready for them. The waiting area is closed for now so families need to come in one at a time to reduce the number of people in one place. After each appointment, every stylist wipes down their chair with Barbicide wipes and changes out the cape.”

However, some businesses have noticed an increase among their customers and are doing their best to cope with the demand for their services.

“Honestly, I haven’t really noticed a change,” said Brittnay Mac, assistant manager at Sutherlands. “We’ve gotten busier actually, we were still labeled an essential store. Really business has been booming lately. We can’t hardly keep up with keeping the shelves stocked and keeping up with orders.”

While larger crowds of people are gathering at places such as bars, restaurants and lake Shawnee, it is becoming evident that Kansans are heading back out whether businesses are open or not. Evaluating the spread of coronavirus over the next few weeks will be telling for how the summer will be affected by continued quarantine procedures.

Edited by Hannah Alleyne, Shelby Spradling


Writer Bio: Matthew L. Self, [email protected], is a senior English major.