Discarded

A discarded medical mask.

Two customers at a Keene business got into a violent altercation late last month after one of them refused to wear a mask, police say. Part of the fight was captured in a video, which was put online Sunday and drew thousands of comments before being taken down.

The March 27 incident began when a Springfield, Vt., man entered Branch and Blade Brewing without a mask, according to Keene police Lt. Steven Tenney.

Employees at the Bradco Street brewery — which requires patrons to wear face coverings when they aren’t seated — asked the man to either put on a mask or leave, Tenney said. Another customer, a Keene resident, started arguing with the unmasked man over the man’s refusal to wear a mask, also telling him to leave, Tenney said.

Both the city of Keene and New Hampshire required people to wear masks in public spaces at the time in an effort to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, though Gov. Chris Sununu lifted the state mandate last week. (Keene officials are scheduled to review the city’s ordinance, which remains in effect, on Wednesday. See story, page A1.)

The Branch and Blade customers’ argument escalated into a fight in which punches were thrown, according to Tenney. Brewery staff intervened to break it up, he said.

The video of the incident, which was posted Sunday on the website Vimeo, showed at least one Branch and Blade employee attempting to forcefully remove the unmasked man from inside the brewery as the man resisted. The unmasked man was pushed outside at one point but re-entered the building, causing further commotion, the video showed.

The video drew more than 3,000 comments on the online chat forum Reddit. It was removed from Vimeo Sunday evening.

Branch and Blade co-owner Trevor Bonnette declined to comment on the incident.

Keene police responded to the brewery following the altercation, but neither of the men involved wanted to press charges, according to Tenney. However, the unmasked Vermont man was served a trespassing letter for refusing Branch and Blade employees’ requests that he leave the premises, he said.

Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420, or csymons@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.