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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Workers from the Quesnel Child and Youth Support Society prepare Christmas hampers in 2019. The society was one of seven recipients of funding in the first round of the Emergency Community Support Fund. The Quesnel Community Foundation is now accepting donations for the second round of funding and is urging local groups to apply before Oct. 30. (Facebook)
Quesnel Community Foundation urges area groups to apply for COVID-19 relief funding

The deadline to apply for Round 2 of the Emergency Community Support Fund is Oct. 30

The best photo of the Fraser River Walking Bridge taken on Oct. 23 or 24 will be rewarded with a donation to the Polio Plus Fund on behalf of the Rotary Club of Quesnel. (File Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel’s footbridge set for scarlet spotlight

The Fraser River Footbridge will be bathed in red light to mark World Polio Day Oct. 23 and 24

A police officer speaks to a driver during last year’s Shift Into Winter event in Quesnel. The annual road check reminds drivers to slow down and be safe during winter. (Karen Powell Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
It’s time to Shift into Winter

The annual campaign offers winter driving tips

Jeff Malin nears the finish line Sunday, Oct. 11 in downtown Quesnel. (Lindsay Chung Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
No travel, no problem: Jeff Malin completes ninth marathon in Quesnel

The Quesnel firefighter has been running marathons since 2012

The owners of Motherlode Wash on Juniper Road in South Quesnel are hoping to construct a new wash building that would accommodate larger vehicles like RVs and semi-trucks. The new building would be two storeys and would match the existing buildings on the property. (Lindsay Chung Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
South Quesnel’s Motherlode Wash applies to add wash building for large vehicles

The new building will include three large-vehicle wash bays and one touchless wash tunnel

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Most Read