Colorado business owners faced with challenges over mask enforcement

DENVER (KDVR) — Business owners and employees across Colorado are now tasked with mitigating situations involving people who refuse to wear masks, following Gov. Jared Polis’ executive order Thursday requiring face coverings in public spaces.

“For the most part, people are very understanding,” said Paige Whitaker, general manager at Milwaukee Street Tavern in Denver. 

Masks have been required in Denver restaurants since they were allowed to reopen in May. Whitaker says they have had a few instances involving customers pushing back against the requirement.

“A gentleman came in, he didn’t have a mask on. We asked him to stay outside until he had a mask on. He called my servers all sorts of names and was very combative about it,” said Whitaker. 

She says that man eventually came back with a mask but they denied him service due to his behavior. Health officials in Colorado say that’s the kind of situation that could require law enforcement involvement. 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says enforcement starts at the local level. If a person believes a business or another person is not compliant, they should contact local law enforcement or a local public health agency. 

The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment recommends residents call 311 if a person is not complying with mask orders or report it online at

Dr. John Douglas with the Tri-County Health Department is advising people to call the health department if they have complaints. He says situations involving a person who is disorderly or disruptive could result in calling law enforcement.

Whitaker says there have been situations involving mask enforcement in the restaurant in which customers have gotten involved.

“We’ve had regulars step in and help out when people want to get abrasive with our staff just because they don’t have a mask. It’s gotten to the point that they’ve offered to call police if it escalated,” said Whitaker.

People with certain medical conditions are exempt from the mask mandate and do not need any form of written exemption. The state advises someone with a medical condition to tell the establishment that they cannot tolerate a mask. However, health officials say anyone who cannot tolerate a mask due to medical reasons should consider limiting visits to businesses to protect themselves and others.