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Breweries Call On Tulsa City Council To Approve New Mask Mandate

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Ten Tulsa breweries are asking city councilors to reinstitute a citywide mask mandate on Wednesday.

The breweries are American Solera, Cabin Boys, Dead Armadillo, Eerie Abbey Ales, Heirloom Rustic Ales, Marshall Brewing, Neff Brewery, Nothing’s Left, Pippin’s Taproom and Renaissance Brewing — collectively, the Tulsa Craft Brewery Alliance.

Heirloom Rustic Ales co-owner Jake Miller said they had a meeting last week because of concerns with rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. That led to a commitment from all 10 breweries to strongly encourage masks unless guests are seated at their tables, and to the letter sent to the council and Mayor G.T. Bynum.

"I thought it was really encouraging that 10 breweries that I'm sure have a whole lot of different political backgrounds and there's a lot of political diversity within that group, all came together and decided this was the best move. And we just really hope that city council can overcome the politics and follow the public health narrative," Miller said.

While the breweries are strongly encouraging masks on their own, Marshall Brewing Company Taproom Manager Kyle Johnson said pandemic shutdowns followed by mask politics have created economic pressure on the local industry, made up of small, mostly family owned operations.

"It's a very tough decision to decide to take the route that has public safety in mind, which is to keep requiring masks, at the risk of losing revenue to people who say, 'OK, I'm not going to go to this brewery because they're requiring a mask when there's another brewery a block down the road that's not requiring it,'" Johnson said.

The council is considering a requirement for people 4 years old and older to wear masks in public places. A procedural motion to vote on the proposal in a special meeting last week fell one vote short.

The new mask mandate needs six votes to take effect immediately.

A previous mask mandate for people age 10 and up expired at the end of April, when new infections in Tulsa County were at a 10-month low. Since then, reported cases have increased each of the past 10 weeks, and hospitals are nearing COVID patient numbers last seen in January.

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Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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