Published: 06:00, 02 August 2021
| Updated: 14:22, 02 August 2021
Racial slurs have been hurled at staff from a village shop which has continued to refuse serving customers not wearing masks.
Employees from Bridgeway Stores in Bridge, near Canterbury, say that on about 20 occasions since restrictions were lifted on July 19 they have been sworn at and threatened by people ignoring pleas to cover their faces.
An angry customer throws a basket at the store owner and calls him the C word
CCTV of one incident shows a basket being thrown at owner Ranjit Dhaliwal by a man refused entry for not wearing a mask.
Another member of staff at the Western Avenue store has been told to “go back to your own country”.
“Someone called me the P-word last Monday because I said we don’t allow people into the shop without a face mask,” Mr Dhaliwal said.
“We’ve had lots of issues. A member of staff was told on Saturday to go back to her country as well.
“People have thrown stuff and sworn at staff. It’s mostly youngsters between 18 and 35 refusing to wear masks.
“Younger people walk in thinking they don’t need to wear a mask and say we’re breaking the law asking them to wear one.”
Government guidance introduced on July 19 states there is no longer a legal requirement to wear masks in some indoor settings such as shops and pubs.
However, it recommends people should use them in crowded and enclosed spaces in which they come into contact with strangers or others they do not usually meet.
While it says residents should use their judgement in deciding whether to don a mask, the guidance adds that businesses can ask their employees and customers to cover their faces.
But doing so has left staff at Bridgeway subjected to a number of unsavoury incidents.
Police have launched a probe into one reported shortly before 3pm last Monday, during which it was alleged a man threw a basket at an employee and shouted racist abuse.
They are also investigating reports a man shouted abuse at a worker inside the premises at about 4.15pm on Saturday, July 24.
Bridgeway employee Steve Fawke, 58, added: “We’re getting abused every day.
“I’ve had fruit cartons thrown at me and my colleagues have had similar.
“We shouldn’t have to come to work and get abused the way we are.”
'We shouldn’t have to come to work and get abused the way we are...'
In addition to urging customers to cover their faces the retailer, who has owned Bridgeway for about 30 years, is also limiting the number of people allowed inside the store.
“We have elderly people coming into the shop and we’re just trying to keep them safe,” Mr Dhaliwal, 58, added.
"Over the last year and a half, not a single member of staff here has had Covid.
“We’re a private organisation and have the right of refusal.
“The disease hasn’t left – it’s still there, whether or not we’ve been jabbed.”
While enforcing these rules in his store, Mr Dhaliwal has come under fire himself and been branded a hypocrite for not wearing a mask at all times.
In one clip, a customer storms out after challenging the shop owner for not covering his face.
Mr Dhaliwal says on that occasion he forgot to put one on as he walked into the business from a separate room.
A police spokesman confirmed officers are investigating two reports relating to incidents at the shop.
Investigations into both are ongoing and anyone with any information should call us on 01843 222289, quoting 46/133008/21 for the first incident, or 46/133350/21 for the second.
You can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555 111.