Store manager expresses frustration after unmasked group causes ruckus

‘They ignored us,’ Cardiff Seaside Market supervisor says


Medical. (Photo by Hush Naidoo, Unsplash)

Julia Shapero

A group of individuals protested mask mandates at two Encinitas grocery stores, refusing to wear masks or leave the stores.

Law enforcement was called to both Cardiff Seaside Market and Lazy Acres Natural Market on Feb. 16, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department North Coastal Station.

Austin Davis, the general manager at Cardiff Seaside Market, said the group of about 10 to 15 individuals entered the store and refused to put on masks, despite being informed that they could not be in the store without them.

“(We) let them know, rather apologetically, ‘I’m sorry, but you have to wear a mask if you are inside the store,’” Davis said. “They ignored us or just told us, ‘No, we don’t want to.’”

This is the first time I’ve had this large of a group this focused and seemingly of the same mind.

— Austin Davis, Cardiff Seaside Market general manager

After the group ignored or refused Davis’ multiple requests to put on masks, he said he offered them other options in the case that they felt they could not wear a mask, including shopping online through Instacart or allowing him to shop for them. However, the group also refused those options, he said.

Davis said he called the Sheriff’s Department after the group refused his request to leave the store.

While the group was in the store, they opened several packages of food, ate them and threw items in the bakery department, he said.

“(They) laughed at some of our employees, laughed at our insistence that they wear (masks), laughed at us when we told them that this was for our own safety and for their safety,” he said.

Deputies arrived after about 15 minutes and were eventually able to get the group to agree to leave, Davis said.

Deputies were also called to Lazy Acres Natural Market prior to the incident at Cardiff Seaside Market. Lazy Acres declined to comment on the incident.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Davis said that they have experienced similar issues, but with individuals or smaller groups. He added that the majority of people who do not feel comfortable wearing a mask are understanding and will put on a mask once explained the reasons behind it.

A smaller portion of customers will allow an employee to shop for them, use Instacart or leave the store out of frustration with the mask policy, he said. However, a very small percentage of customers will come through the store and cause issues, he added.

“We’ve not had to have the police actually come out there and pull them off the property yet,” he said. “Most of them, once the police have been called, they give up and they go. This is the first time I’ve had one stay this long. This is the first time I’ve had this large of a group this focused and seemingly of the same mind.”

Davis added that, as a manager, his primary focus is on the safety of his employees and customers.

“My employees, my customers, my personal friends and family and all sorts of people out in the community have lost other friends, other (family members), other connections to this virus,” he said. “At this point, I think we’re at 500,000 dead. We take this very seriously.”

Many of his employees at Seaside Market are in high school, over 65 years of age, immunocompromised or have high risk family members, Davis said.

“That someone would come through and try to pretend that this is some kind of protest while they’re actively threatening the lives of my team pisses me off,” he said.

Julia Shapero is an Encinitas freelance writer.

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