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One Anchorage business deals with mask requirement and offers vaccinations

Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 5:25 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - When one’s been in business for more than 60 years, they’re bound to have some ups and downs, but Rich Owens, owner of the Jewel Lake Tastee Freez, said COVID-19 has made the last two years the hardest by far.

“The most challenging,” Owens said. “just because of the uncertainty.”

In the early part of the pandemic the restaurant closed to in-person dining, and then re-opened. Mask requirements came and went. Owens said the difficulty of getting supplies the restaurant needs, including food, have been ongoing. But now, there’s something that is stressing Owens out even more.

“We’ve lost, I know of at least four customers that have died of COVID,” he said. “I don’t know what their vaccination status was, but I believe that the majority of them were not vaccinated.”

Masks are now required per a recent emergency ordinance passed by the Anchorage Assembly, for employees and customers alike. Owens said so far, most customers are complying, but he’s instructed his young staff not to fight with those who aren’t.

“We’ve told the employees, I said ‘if somebody comes in and they’re not wearing a mask and they’re just going to order and get their food, we’re not going to get in a fight with them,” he said. “It’s not worth trying to do battle with a 60-year-old person over whether they’re going to wait for their food inside or outside.”

Owens said he doesn’t believe in telling people what to do but he does want to offer them opportunities if they’re considering getting vaccinated. He came up with an idea after several long-time customers, who were unvaccinated, expressed frustration at finding a place to get the shot nearby.

“Some of the older people, the retirees were saying, you know, we have to go so far,” he said. “And that’s what got me thinking about it was, well you know, we’re convenient, we’re in the middle of the neighborhood here.”

Owens teamed up with the Anchorage Health Department to make it happen. The vaccine clinic at Tastee Freez runs every Friday from 5-8 p.m.

Owens said walk-ins are welcome and all three varieties of vaccine are available, including boosters for those who qualify. Owens said the clinic has been approved to run through the month of November but he’s hoping it can continue even longer.

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