The aftermath of a violent incident at Mittz Kitchen on July 4, when a customer pushed owner Steve Mitton over a table and smashed a plate of food on the floor over being asked to follow COVID-19 safety protocols. (Kamloops This Week)

The aftermath of a violent incident at Mittz Kitchen on July 4, when a customer pushed owner Steve Mitton over a table and smashed a plate of food on the floor over being asked to follow COVID-19 safety protocols. (Kamloops This Week)

Kamloops business owners say ‘rude, unruly’ customers need to start following COVID rules

Some incidents have even turned violent, restaurant owners say

  • Jul. 27, 2020 11:20 a.m.

Kamloops This Week

As businesses navigate Phase 3 of B.C.’s restart plan, a number of store owners have encountered a troubling trend of rude customers and mistreatment of staff in response to COVID-19 safety protocols.

“It’s really unfortunate because a lot of the business community has invested in protocols and barriers to make sure their customers are safe,” said Acacia Pangilinan, executive director of the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce.

Pangilinan said as more businesses resume operations and welcome customers back, the number of owners sounding the alarm has grown.

“We’re seeing both sides. Some are being fantastic and others, well, some store owners are just telling them not to come, to not be a customer anymore,” Pangilinan said.

She believes the behaviour seen among some customers comes from added stress, with people tired of being in quarantine. Pangilinan has heard of incidents in all sectors, including the retail and service industries.

“It’s at the point where businesses are putting up signage saying that if their employees aren’t treated respectfully, they aren’t going to serve you or have you as a customer,” she said.

One such example is at Senor Froggy, where the owner of the local chain, Robert Stodola, has had to stand up for his staff, who have been so been bombarded by mistreatment that he gave them all a long weekend off, from Friday to Monday, this past weekend.

“It’s been death by a thousand cuts,” he said of how his employees, many of whom are teens, have been treated by people.

Stodola said 99 per cent of his customers have been amazing and are reacting well to safety protocols, but added some are finding licence in their frustrations with the pandemic-related measures to abuse staff.

“A lot of it is low-key, profanity under their breaths and things like that,” he said.

But other incidents have included people lashing out at staff over being asked to wash their hands or wait in line to place orders.

Stodola said while orders do take longer to place, due to only being able to run one till to follow physical-distancing guidelines and cleaning procedures between customers, the kitchen is running at full speed and people have not been waiting longer once their orders are placed.

A sign posted at Senor Froggy locations reads: “Every one of them is someone’s child — it could be your child,” and “Do not be rude to them or you will be asked to leave.”

Stodola has managed to keep all of his employees during the pandemic and has even hired since it started. But with how they’ve been treated, he has had to pay close attention to how they are handling the added stress.

“We’re just getting into this. It’s a new normal. Everybody needs to remember that it’s going to be like this for awhile. Don’t fight it. It is what it is,” he said when asked what he wants customers to know before coming to Senor Froggy locations.

READ MORE: B.C. restaurant group warns members to follow COVID rules – or shut down

Other incidents have even turned violent, including an assault that took place at downtown restaurant Mittz Kitchen in early July that ended with owner Steve Mitton being pushed over a table and a plate of food smashed on the floor.

A group of nine arrived at Mittz on July 4, its second stop on a wine tour with TasteFull Excursions. Because of safety guidelines, the group was told it could only be accommodated if sat in groups of six or fewer at restaurants and wineries.

Mitton said the group was obnoxious from the beginning, harassing his staff and trying to order more liquor than allowed, but the conflict came after the group repeatedly pushed its tables together.

After he confronted the group for a third time over the matter, Mitton said one patron smashed a plate of food on the floor and pushed him over a table.

Mitton said he had never experienced anything like it in his nearly 30-year restaurant career and reported the incident to the Kamloops RCMP.

TasteFull Excursions owner Maatje Stamp-Vincent said she has had many customers who are thankful for the safety protocols the tour company — and its stops — have put in place, but also others who she said have “behaved like children.”

“I’ve had to grit my teeth, but I’m kind of done with that,” she said, frustrated with people who don’t follow the rules.

“If a group really wants to get down and dirty and be unruly and rude, I’m not interested. I’m just not interested,” she said, noting that groups must agree to follow all safety protocols before embarking on a tour.

Pangilinan said more should be done to communicate the need for COVID-19 safety protocols.

To that end, the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce released a video last week sharing tips on how to safely support local businesses while they continue to recover.

“I think we need to see leadership across all sectors — community leaders, not just business leaders, talking about the importance of the safety protocols,” Pangilinan said.

“And I think consumers do need to have their eyes opened a little bit. These protocols are not put into place to make things difficult. They’re put in place to keep people safe.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusRestaurants

Just Posted

Soaker hoses laid down over corn seedlings, soon to be covered with mulch, will see to the watering needs of the bed through any summer drought. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Investing in soaker hoses is money well-spent

No-till gardening has a distinct advantage during drought

Karl McPherson, left, and Mary Morrice are the new head coach and general manager, respectively, at the Duncan Dynamics Gymnastics Club. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Manager charts a new course for Duncan Dynamics

More recreational programs to join competitive teams

Cute but fierce! Timber moonlights as an attack kitty. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Sarah Simpson Column: Beware of Mr. Bite, the midnight attacker

Last week, in the middle of the night, I was awoken by… Continue reading

The province has come through with funding for Duncan Manor’s renewal project. (File photo)
Funding comes through for Duncan Manor’s renewal project

Money will come from the province’s Community Housing Fund

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Most Read