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Saturday, September 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Mask Free Zone’: Spokane Valley business ignores Inslee mask order

UPDATED: Fri., July 24, 2020

The storefront of Viking Sewing & Vacuum Centers, 9807 E. Sprague Ave. in Spokane Valley, displays a sign Spokane Valley that warns customers it is a "MASK FREE ZONE ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK," on Thursday, July 24, 2020. Owner Ed Rosell said he refuses to follow the state mandate requiring masks and is willing to go to jail for his stand.   (Thomas Clouse/The Spokesman-Review)
The storefront of Viking Sewing & Vacuum Centers, 9807 E. Sprague Ave. in Spokane Valley, displays a sign Spokane Valley that warns customers it is a "MASK FREE ZONE ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK," on Thursday, July 24, 2020. Owner Ed Rosell said he refuses to follow the state mandate requiring masks and is willing to go to jail for his stand.  (Thomas Clouse/The Spokesman-Review)
By Thomas Clouse Staff writer

A Spokane Valley business that focuses on repairing sewing machines for a generally older clientele is refusing to follow Gov. Jay Inslee’s mask mandate, and the owner said he’s ready to go to jail in the name of freedom.

Owner Ed Rosell said he put up a sign on the entrance to Viking Sewing & Vacuum Centers that states “MASK FREE ZONE ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!” because he doesn’t believe he needs to follow Inslee’s directive, which was put in place to help stop spread of coronavirus. 

“We are choosing not to follow the governor’s recommendation requiring customers to wear masks,” Rosell said. “We have a lot of older customers. The response for about 90% of them is, ‘Thank you.’”

Rosell said he put the sign up about a month ago and he’s not heard anything from state regulators. Inslee and the state Department of Health issued orders that limit nonessential business activity, require businesses to adopt appropriate health and safety measures for staff and customers, and require individuals to wear a face covering when in most public spaces, according to the state’s website.

It directs anyone who wants to report a business for noncompliance to contact local law enforcement. Spokane County Sheriff’s spokesman Cpl. Mark Gregory said his office has not received a citizen complaint about Viking.

The last call for service at the business came in June: The caller wanted help to make sure a wild turkey didn’t run into traffic. But even if a complaint about the mask policy comes in, Gregory said Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich has made it clear that “the first step of enforcement is education.”

“We’ll make a couple or three contacts warning them,” Gregory said. “If that still doesn’t take care of it, we would forward the paperwork to (Spokane Regional Health District). We’d let their attorneys look at it and determine how to go forth.”

Rosell said he worked 16 years as a nurse and he does not believe the case numbers he hears about the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We feel like we are smart enough to social distance. Washing hands and social distancing should be more than adequate,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been doing.” 

As for the sign, he said neither he nor his employees have received a single complaint.

“We did have one customer who walked up, read the sign and left,” he said. “We keep people’s sewing machines up and operating. That’s what we do.”

The business, which has been located at 9807 E. Sprague Ave. since 1982, has had trouble keeping up with orders since it reopened after  the stay-at-home order put in place by Inslee was lifted. 

“We are busier now than we have ever been,” Rosell said. “I’m a month behind on repairs.”

He estimated that most of his customers are 70 and older. And, many of them need their machines fixed so they can make the same masks that Rosell does not require them to wear.

“Some wear the masks. Some will not,” he said. “It’s a free country, so far.”

Rosell, who was not wearing a mask in his business on Thursday, said he’s not concerned about any local or state agency that might try to shut down his business.

“I’ll deal with it when they get here,” he said. “They can take me to jail. We are not going to force these folks” to wear masks .

As for Inslee, Rosell said: “I hope he’s looking for a job in November.” 

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