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Saratoga butcher shop manager sued for asking a customer to put on a mask

Feb 24, 2022 1:21 pm

Kathleen Moore reports for the Times Union that you might not believe this next news story. Jason Houle, the store manager at a Saratoga County butcher shop, did not believe the legal papers he was served with. “I had to actually call the Albany (federal court) clerk’s office to confirm it was legit,” he said. The legal papers came because Houle is being sued in federal court for asking a customer to put on a mask in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. On Dec. 17, during a state mandate requiring people to wear masks indoors in public, David Kwiat was asked to put on a mask in the butcher shop. “I said, 'Do you have a mask?' He said no; I said, 'I can provide you with a mask if you like,'” Houle said. “It was pretty non-confrontational.” Kwiat asked for his business card and left the store. Now Houle says he thinks the lawsuit was always the plan. “He was looking for that,” Houle said. Kwiat released a statement: "Forcing healthy people to wear masks is illegal, immoral, ignorant and criminal,” Kwiat said in the statement. “This fight is for those that can’t stick up for themselves and has nothing to do with money and everything to do with our God given rights." Houle guesses it might be about money. “And I don’t have a quarter of a million dollars, which is what he’s asking for,” Houle said. “And he’s pretty well-off.” Before and during the pandemic, stores have refused service to customers who do not wear shirts or shoes, and the state government mandated the store customers wear a mask as well. Houle doesn't have much of an opinion on the issue. “I’m very indifferent,” the butcher shop manager said. “But I do have staff who have concerns, (and) I’ve lost staff over it. I had people who said, 'I can’t work on the front line any more, I have underlying health conditions.'” Read more about this story in the Times Union.