No Mask, No Gloves, No Service: Southern Brooklyn Businesses Start to Turn Away Customers Without Masks

Surgical masks. (

Fong and Zhou Supermarket in Bensonhurst and AAA Pharmacy in Midwood are turning away customers who aren’t wearing face masks — a policy that a spokesperson from the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) says should not exist.

“Business owners are not permitted to turn away customers who are not wearing face masks,” said a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS), although the spokesperson could not point to a specific law that prevents businesses from doing just that. Neither the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) nor the Office of Emergency Management (OCE) would comment on this practice.

Fong and Zhou Supermarket at 8514 18th Ave implemented the new policy on Monday, March 23, according to Gary Chui, a bookkeeper for the supermarket.

“We’re protecting our staff and customers too,” said Chui.

The supermarket is also selling $40 boxes of 50 three-layer face masks outside the store for customers who did not bring their own. Chui says that the price is fair given the import cost from China. Amazon is selling a similar product for $30, granted, the masks wouldn’t arrive until April 5 at the earliest or April 27 at the latest.

United States Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted on Saturday, February 29 that surgical masks like the ones Fong and Zhou Supermarket is selling are “not effective in preventing general public from catching Coronavirus.” Chui says that customers can wear “any mask” to get in the store.

The more-specialized N95 Respirators do filter out Coronavirus, and regular surgical masks can be useful for blocking coughing and sneezing according to the Center for Disease Control.

AAA Pharmacy and Medical Supply at 1926 Kings Highway implemented a similar policy on Sunday, March 22. The pharmacy is giving free gloves at the door, but customers must bring their own masks. AAA is not selling masks right now, but has enough masks for staff, according to a staff member who hung up the phone when asked his name.

SBS has released a series of guidelines for businesses to protect their staff and the public from Coronavirus. These include cleaning more frequently, promoting “tap and pay” services like Apple Pay, having hand-sanitizer available and increasing ventilation, but explicitly states that masks are not necessary.

“The NYC Health Department does not recommend the routine use of face masks if you are not sick. Face masks are not needed for general or routine tasks by staff,” writes the SBS in the guidelines.

Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, warned that masks should only be used by people showing symptoms at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s press conference on Friday, March 20.

“The time to use a mask is when someone is symptomatic, when they’re coughing, when they’re sneezing, and it’s to ensure that that individual doesn’t contaminate other folks,” said Commissioner Barbot. “It gives people who are asymptomatic a false sense of security that if they wear this mask, they don’t have to wash their hands, they don’t have to cover their mouths and their noses when they cough or they sneeze.”

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Curtis Brodner

Curtis is a reporter for Bklyner. Message me with tips, questions and lavish praise (or complaints) at or on Twitter @CurtisBrodner.


  1. Honestly, since we don’t know who has the virus who doesn’t, and people can pass virus to other ppl if when they are asymptomatic, so if everyone in public place wear a mask, it would help prevent spreading the disease. To have a mask one is better than covering mouth when coughing the sneezing, of course, I do understand there’s a shortage in masks and healthcare professionals need them the most……..

  2. The Keyfood grocery store on 18th and Bath in Brooklyn has no disinfecting wipes and have NEVER had them available to shoppers. I always thought it was a requirement in large grocery stores.

  3. Hoard toilet paper and wear masks that are ineffective.

    Coach to player: “Son, are you ignorant or apathetic?”

    Player: “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

  4. This is no different than “No shirts, no shoes, no service”. Of course they can require it, and good for them for doing so.

  5. Until the public is mandated to wear full body condoms and have every vaccine Bill Gates can dream of, all grocery stores should be required to have robots throw the customer’s items out of the store at them. This will require zero human to human contact. Of course this would have to be a cashless transaction.

  6. We have followed the advice of the WHO as voiced by the US Surgeon General and the results are in and they are bad. Let us never forget the WHO knows nothing about covid-19 – no-one does. So the time is right for government to do more. We should be following the example of the Czech Republic which on 19th March made it a legal requirement for citizens to wear a face covering (ie a scarf or bandana) when in public. I have much more information on the matter: please see my information page here:

  7. Everyone should be wearing some sort of face cover, even if it is a paper mask. The cough, the sneeze that you think is just the result of allergies could contain the virus. This stuff can stay in the air for 3 hours. If everyone wears a mask it will significantly cut the amount of this stuff suspended in the air. The lies that the surgeon general tells about masks not helping just sows more distrust in the government. We get it, you are lying to us to try and prevent people from buying up N95 masks, but we are smart enough to know that you are lying.

  8. The chinese did several studies on the efficacy of masks in preventing exposure to the virus. In one such study, an infected bus passenger passed the virus to 13 other passengers during the course of a. 4-hour trip. There were four individuals on the bus who were wearing masks. Not one of the mask-wearing passengers were. Infected. Chinese medical doctors are adamant that people SHOULD be wearing masks.

    So there’s that.

  9. Let these businesses go out of business, and then let new businesses without the paranoia open up to serve customers.

  10. OF COURSE MASKS WILL REDUCE the spread, I cannot believe that the CDC is pushing the Idea that they would not help. In fact I don’t even want a Bailout Check. I would prefer the Govt send masks to every man, woman and child and mandate that they are worn in public. That would Flatten the Curve and not Crash Dump the Economy. Please common sense.

  11. So Mister U.S. Surgeon General, if the mask are not going to protect the public, how are they going to protect the medical staff caring for the sick? You are now talking out of both sides of your mouth.

  12. Boycott – totally discriminating and attempting to force consumers to purchase something. Go somewhere else and blast on Yelp. They brought the virus here and want to capitalize.

  13. Oh my God, people! Get a grip! This is not Ebola or bubonic plague. Thousands of people have contracted this and didn’t even know it because the were either asymptotic or had a mild case they mistook for a cold. This is not the end of the world. Will some people die? Yes. Have more people died of the friggin flu? Yes. New York City has had less than 200 deaths from a population of 8 million. CDC estimates that 146-366 people in this country die from the flu EVERY DAY! No panic over that. We will do more damage by sending millions into poverty as we over react.

  14. If everyone wears some kind of mask, even a fabric one of at least 3 layers, then asymtomatic people don’t share, healthy people have some protection, and the obviously ill are covered. This, along with hand washing etc would reduce transmission rates. Common sense.

  15. Of course masks are effective in slowing and preventing the spread of the virus in respiratory droplets. Many people are contagious when they’re asymptomatic. So they are coughing and sneezing, and breathing. And they are infecting everyone else around them. The surgeon general fits in perfectly with the Trump administration….just spouting constant lies and falsehoods. Some of us are not so stupid as to believe every word.

  16. Gloves are one of the worst ideas imaginable for this epidemic. When people wear gloves, they are totally care-free about things they touch, and then they carelessly touch other things, smearing whatever they’ve picked up on their gloves to other surfaces, spreading the virus. NOBODY should be wearing gloves unless they either have an open sore on them or they are preparing food; And even then, they need to remove those gloves any time they touch ANYTHING other than the food they are preparing. But nobody has a brain and can think logically for themselves, so this kind of inanity spreads much faster than the virus. STUPID!!!

  17. Wearing mask is Very Extremely important! Why ppl don’t believe it? Are u happy If your loved ones losing their lives because of lack of protection? Our lives are the most important thing! Wearing a mask may not hundred percent prevent spreading virus or can stop get infected but it definitely can protect someone in somehow. No one wants to get sick with coronavirus, Flu A or B,! Please please wearing masks when u facing ppl! Protect yourself and others!

  18. This is a great thing! Things need to occur to prevent the spread of the virus. It is for the safety of all people.

  19. There’s going to be the ones whom are tricked and played with.

    The US Government is aiming for herd immunity. Their actions and delay of action – tells me so. You compare the actions that South Korea, Taiwan, or China have taken to slow down the spread… such as spraying down streets, temperature testing at populated points, and enforcement of masks…. to what the US is doing?

    We are telling citizens not to wear masks. So that people who are not sick – have the chance of becoming sick. Then what…? We push more patients into hospitals?

    You got to stop it as close to the source of the spread as possible. And that starts with our own people. We need to decrease the amount of people getting sick in the first place, so that hospitals don’t get rammed in the A.

    Right now – they’re testing and prodding. Throwing out anti-Chinese rhetoric, seeing if enough people will take the bait. Then they will push the herd immunity down our throats, and blame China. So much money is going into these anti-Chinese media companies right now. So let’s see how racist this nation can become.

  20. Keep on following everything you watch on TV or what the government says and one day soon you will wake up in an Orwellian world where freedom does not exist. When this happens, it will be too late. Wake up dear human race!!

  21. I find it alarmingly dangerous of Bklyner to post a tweet from May 29th from the surgeon general advocating against masks when they surgeon general himself has tweeted again on April 9th talking about new CDC guidance and tips to make a homemade face covering.

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