Businesses in Toms River can implement their own mask and payment policies during the pandemic but Mayor Maurice "Mo" Hill reminded two retailers not to blame the township for their policy.

Since Gov. Phil Murphy lifted mask mandates and gathering limits in May, businesses have had the option to require customers to wear face coverings. Most businesses refer to CDC recommendations in their request for customers to wear a mask regardless of their vaccination status.

Hoboken, Montclair, Morristown, Newark, North Bergen, South Brunswick and Union City are among the municipalities that have their own indoor mask mandates. Toms River is not among them.

“I don’t favor mandates,” Hill said in a statement. “Our citizens are responsible and can make their own choices.”

Sign at Lowe's in Toms River blaming their mask policy on "local ordinances"
Sign at Lowe's in Toms River blaming their mask policy on "local ordinances" (Toms River Township)
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Toms River stores with mandates

Hill went to Lowe's on Saturday to ask the manager to remove a sign that explained their mask policy was because of "local ordinances." It was removed before the mayor's arrival.

The manager told Hill that the store received a phone call alerting them there was no township mandate and it was taken down.

"Businesses have the right to require stricter mask policies, but businesses are not allowed to restrict the use of face masks by their staff, customers, or visitors. Municipalities and counties are also permitted to impose stricter requirements on masking in businesses open to the public," according to the state's COVID-19 guidelines.

Social distancing, masking, and other safety measures are still required in high-risk areas such as healthcare settings, public transportation, child care centers, correctional facilities, and homeless shelters.

Toms River mayor Maurice Hill at a Chipotle reading a sign blaming a contactless payment policy on "instructions from local authorities.Toms River mayor Maurice Hill at a Chipotle reading a sign blaming a contactless payment policy on "instructions from local authorities." (Township of Toms River)
Toms River mayor Maurice Hill at a Chipotle reading a sign blaming a contactless payment policy on "instructions from local authorities." (Township of Toms River) (Township of Toms River)
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Contactless payment restriction

The second stop was also on Hooper Avenue at a Chipotle restaurant where a sign cited "instructions from local authorities" for a contactless payment-only policy.

The manager, however, explained to Hill that the policy was in effect because of a nationwide coin shortage that began in 2020 when the circulation of coins was disrupted by the pandemic.

While businesses can encourage use of credit cards they must still accept cash payment.

The manager agreed to Hill's request to change the sign.

Ocean County has had 123,129 total COVID-19 cases with 2,385 deaths. There are 918 current active cases.

Sign recommending masks at Wawa
Sign recommending masks at Wawa (Dan Alexander, Townsquare Media NJ)
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Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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