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Editor's Note: ‘Food or a fight?’

THE GREAT MASK WAR has resumed locally once again — or maybe it never really stopped.

In a Facebook post that rapidly went viral, longtime Crystal Beer Parlor owner John Nichols vented this past Saturday night about an abusive customer who was irate over the restaurant’s mask policy:

“Tonight, Saturday, August 15th, a couple walked up to the host stand. The wife was wearing a mask. The husband insisted that he couldn’t wear a mask because he was asthmatic. They were informed by the hostess that they had to wear a mask, it was our policy. The manager was called and explained to the couple that we required masks for everyone’s safety. The couple became rude and belligerent, threatened to sue us and screamed “Fuck you!” as they left. What are we to make of such people? What the hell is wrong with them? Berating my staff as if they made policy? You wanna talk? Call me! What the hell did you come to our place for, food or a fight? I can’t tell you how stressful being in the restaurant business is these days,” Nichols said.

While stories about buffoonish, entitled customers of this nature have been circulating around town for literally months now, this one hit home because of the nature of the target.

Nichols, of course, is part of a well-regarded longtime Savannah family, at the helm of an equally well-regarded Savannah institution — one which has taken particularly responsible safeguards during the pandemic.

“I may lose some business because of this statement,” Nichols continued, “but I believe my insistence on our policy will reduce the chances of any of my staff contracting the virus.”

If there is any good news that came out of the incident, it’s that Nichols likely not only didn’t lose business, he probably gained some.

After making the post, he received massive, overwhelming support from the people who count most: Local, repeat customers for whom the Crystal Beer Parlor is a beloved tradition.

In the end, that kind of community-building in the face of dire crisis is the only thing that will get us through — especially as your federal and state government have for the most part thrown us to the wolves.

That said, a bit of relief came through over the past week, as millions of dollars in federal coronavirus funds — which the state had been sitting on — finally began being disbursed to the City of Savannah.

The focus of the funds is on rent/mortgage relief, with the stated goal of avoiding evictions —at least 50 of which the City was racing to get in front of before they were completed. They are also funds available for local small businesses.

(There are catches, however: The funds are only available for COVID-19-related income loss from March 1 to Aug. 30. And the City has to spend all the money by Sept. 1. Call 211 to apply.)

In another kudo-worthy move, the City opted to partner with The United Way and the Small Business Assistance Corporation to disburse the funds quickly, rather than ramp up an in-house operation from scratch at City Hall.

In the meantime, the brutally insidious nature of COVID-19 became ever more apparent with the recent passing of longtime Chatham County Commissioner James “Coach” Holmes, due to complications from the virus.

But as we’ve seen, not even the threat of death is enough to keep some people from arguing over masks.