THE OWNER OF A Ribble Valley restaurant has spoken out about customers refusing to wear masks and believes there needs to be clearer guidance about the current rules.

Zak Marhraoui, owner of The Wellsprings Restaurant in Sabden, said 99 per cent of customers obey the rules- but adds that it is a “small minority” of people who are making working life “very difficult” for all staff members.

According to Mr Marhraoui, the team at The Wellsprings face issues and abuse everyday and the majority of problems stem from people who refuse to put on their masks.

Zak explained: “We know there are people who are genuinely exempt from wearing masks- and they remain seated and stick to the rules.

“However some people just think masks are ‘a load of rubbish’ and won’t wear one as they don’t believe they do any good.”

Mr Marhraoui also suspects that some people lie about being exempt from wearing masks in order to evade the rule.

He said: “How do I know for sure who is exempt- and how can I then question them about it and say they’re not? We just don’t know what else we can do;”

The rule breakers are taking a toll on The Wellsprings staff; Zak said he has been running the restaurant for 22 years and it is “never been as hard as it is right now”.

He added: “If I am honest, nobody here wants to work.

“Staff face abuse every day and some customers are horrible to them.

“Some customers who claim to be exempt mock their servers, pretending to cough when they are around.”

Zak said things have gotten so bad that he “almost felt like closing the place and waiting until everyone has been vaccinated and the rules are clearer.”

It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened to a Lancashire business after The Butler’s Arms in Pleasington decided to close for two weeks after staff have hit breaking point after being shouted at by impatient customers.

Another Burnley restaurant owner said staff members have been left "in tears" after facing abuse from rule-flaunting customers. 

Mr Marhraoui thinks there needs to be clearer guidance around mask exemptions and also a stronger crack down on those exploiting the mask exemption rule.

He said: “We need further clarification and crackdown on the rules and mask guidance.- how do I know who is exempt and how can I question them?”

“If we want this pandemic to end we need to follow the rules.”

What are the current rules on mask exemption?

According to the current Government guidelines for England, you must wear a face covering in the majority of indoor settings- pubs and restaurants are just two examples.

However, there is currently no legal requirement to carrying proof for this.

You are expected to wear a face covering before entering any of these settings and must keep it on until you leave unless there is a reasonable excuse for removing it, such as when you are eating or drinking.

There are some situations where you do not need to wear a face covering.

This includes (but is not limited to):

  • children under the age of 11 (Public Health England does not recommend face coverings for children under the age of 3 for health and safety reasons)
  • people who cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • where putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • if you are speaking to or providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, clear sound or facial expressions to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others ‒ including if it would negatively impact on your ability to exercise or participate in a strenuous activity
  • police officers and other emergency workers, given that this may interfere with their ability to serve the public

According to the Government website, you can get an exemption card if you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering.

However, there is currently no law stating that you have to own or display this card.

According to the Government website: “You do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this.

“This means that you do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering.

“Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.”