RICHMOND, Va. -- Nearly a year after it started in the state of Virginia, Governor Northam announced he would be lifting the mask mandate for vaccinated Virginians Friday at midnight, following guidance from the CDC.
While many local business owners said they were looking ahead to a brighter future, some still had concerns and questions and Senate Republicans called on the governor to do more.
"We've always said that there are going to be brighter days ahead," said Richmond Flying Squirrels COO, Todd (Parney) Parnell. "And we are looking right at these brighter days."
Along with the lifting of the mask mandate, Governor Northam announced all COVID-related capacity and distancing restrictions would be lifted by May 28, two weeks earlier than previously expected. However, he added that businesses could still enforce masking.
Parney said he was looking forward to a faster return to normalcy in the stands.
"It's not going to go from zero to 100. We're going to talk through the process," Parney said. "But certainly, the ability to have more people in there earlier is going to be huge for us."
David Gott, Vice President of Operations with Legend Brewing Company said even the psychological impact would be beneficial for businesses.
"I mean, it's pretty awesome to be able to go back to somewhat normal," said Gott. "When they said, oh, you can put barstools back and really once we socially distanced everything, you can only get six. Still, the psychological value of being able to sit at the bar again, I think, was an amazing thing. Just talking to, you know, regular customers who come up all the time, to watch them walk in the door and seeing barstools, they were just, they were dumbfounded. So, that was, I think, psychologically speaking, that is a really good thing. Psychologically, this is also a very good thing, from a business point of view."
On the other hand, Chad Painter, Owner of Wonderland in Richmond, said once again the news put him and other local business owners in a tough spot.
"Just would have been nice to have a little bit more time to prepare," said Painter. "We've been discussing it the entire time, and we've been thinking that it's going to be June 15 and preparing for that."
Nicole Riley, Virginia State Director with NFIB Small Business Association, said Friday's announcement was great news for small businesses. However, there were still unanswered questions regarding permanent regulations imposed on businesses in the state.
"Some of those requirements are things like you have to do floor-to-ceiling plexiglass," said Riley. "That's a big question for businesses moving forward, is what will happen with this permanent, these permanent regulations that are imposed on them?"
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Ryan McDougle said Senate Republicans had asked the governor to end the mask mandate and were happy he had taken that step. They're now calling on Governor Northam to end the Executive Order.
"What the governor did not do was end the executive order. It is still 18 pages, has a tremendous amount of regulation including penalties on individuals and businesses," said Senator McDougle."Individual Virginians, individual parents, should be making decisions. Businesses should be free to operate and make choices for themselves. It should not be an edict from the governor."