By Tim McNicholas

HOBART, Ind. (CBS) — Indiana’s statewide mask mandate expired at 12:01 a.m.Tuesday. That means some northwest Indiana businesses are left to decide whether to continue to require masks.

Changes will vary from town to town and even from business to business. The owner of one theater for example says “masks required” signs will come down and be replaced with “masks recommended” signs.  

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“We are indeed living in changing times,” said Tom Lounges, whose store Record Bin is just two doors down.

But for now at least one thing will stay the same at the Record Bin: He will still turn away customers who refuse to wear a mask, even as the mask mandate expires for Hobart and the state of Indiana. 

“Our decision was, we aren’t comfortable yet,” he said. “I appreciate everything the governor has done, and I certainly am at the front of the line wanting things to open again. But right now I feel it’s a little too premature.” 

“For us we kind of go from a mandate position to a recommendation position,” said Shane Evans, who owns the Brick House Bar and Grill and the Art Theater.

He says they have had to turn customers away over the past year who refuse to mask up. Now his staff will still wear masks but customers don’t have to. 

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“You deal with customers locally that say, ‘Hey so and so is not doing this. Why are you?’ So we almost look like the bad guy for trying to keep safety in mind. But again, we put them in a position now where you’re able to make your own decision what’s best for you,” he said.

Governor Eric Holcomb says masks are still required in state government buildings and kindergarten through 12th grade schools. 

Hobart’s mayor says they will also require masks in city buildings, which is the same approach nearby Hammond is taking. But some cities, like Gary and Portage, are now extending their own mask mandates, so businesses in those cities will still require masks.

“We need to get through COVID and get it out of our lives, and we’re not going to do that if we don’t get vaccinated and if we don’t wear the masks to keep ourselves safe in public,” said Portage Mayor Sue Lynch. 

Lynch points out that the region has actually seen a recent increase in COVID-19 cases, although COVID deaths have gone down. 

The mayor says she will reevaluate her mandate as more people get vaccinated. 

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In Hobart, the police department says if someone won’t wear a mask at a business that requires it, that could be a case of trespassing and they will respond to those calls. But they won’t respond to calls about maskless people in businesses that don’t require it.

Tim McNicholas