Maskless wedding photo irks officials, businesses

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2020 5:00:29 PM
Modified: 10/5/2020 5:00:22 PM

WOODSTOCK — Municipal officials expressed concerns about public safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic after a photo from a wedding at the Woodstock Inn & Resort on Saturday showing attendees not wearing masks or practicing social distancing circulated on social media.

“The Woodstock Village and Town leadership is well aware of and extremely concerned about the lack of masks and social distancing portrayed by a photo taken at a Woodstock Inn wedding event this past Saturday,” Jeffrey Kahn, chairman of the Board of Woodstock Village Trustees, wrote in a Listserv post Sunday evening.

The photo, which shows roughly 40 people wearing dresses and suits sitting shoulder to shoulder in white folding chairs outside, appears to have been posted by a Woodstock resident and was shared or reposted more than 300 times.

Members of the Woodstock Inn & Resort’s management team met on Monday with municipal officials “to review protocols for weddings and future events,” Stephanie Strommer Croteau, of the New York City-based public relations firm Redpoint, said in an emailed statement.

“While we tried to comply with all guidelines, we agree that we need to further enhance adherence to both the town and state protocols,” the statement said. “We understand the concerns and will make every effort to reassure the community with added layers of protection moving forward.”

In July, Woodstock officials enacted a mask ordinance, ahead of the statewide mask mandate that went into effect on Aug. 1. Woodstock’s ordinance mandates the use of face coverings or face shields while on municipal property, sidewalks and parks, and inside businesses, but doesn’t include penalties.

“Our ordinance is strictly educational,” Woodstock Municipal Manager William Kerbin Jr. said in a phone interview Monday.

The Woodstock Inn reached out to state officials “to review protocols and procedures that were in place as part of the event,” said Mark Bosma, a spokesman for the Vermont Joint Information Center, in a Monday email.

“It appears the event was largely in compliance and the inn is continuing to review and tighten procedures for future events,” Bosma said. “No further action is being taken at this time.”

Those who shared the photo of the wedding online included Nicole Bartner, who owns The Hartland Diner.

In a post on Facebook, Bartner expressed frustration that such a gathering occurred as she struggles to stay in business while complying with the various COVID-19-related restrictions such as limiting restaurant capacity. She said that business is down to such a degree that she works alone on weekdays.

“We’re running at one-quarter to one-third of what our business pre-COVID would have been and have been for going on for eight months now,” she wrote.

Bartner said she’s tired and frustrated that it feels like the Woodstock Inn is being given special privileges because of its size and role in the community and local economy.

“Why should a business like The Woodstock Inn be allowed to act like this?” she wrote. “... And we ‘Little Guys;’ we Independent Business Owners are struggling and clearly being penalized for actually prioritizing the health and safety of our employees, customers, fellow Vermonters.”

For his part, Kahn said he and Kerbin, as well as Woodstock Fire Chief David Green and Selectboard Chairwoman Mary Riley hoped that meeting with members of the Woodstock Inn’s management team could prevent a reoccurrence.

“The safety of our residents, business employees and visitors is of utmost importance to us,” Kahn, who runs the Unicorn gift shop in downtown Woodstock, wrote in his Listserv post. “We must not become complacent about adhering to the Village mask ordinance. Wear your well.”

Woodstock had 12 positive cases of COVID-19 between March 5 and Sept. 30, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

The state has had a total of 1,817 cases and 58 deaths.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoylebur or 603-727-3213.

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