On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the statewide mask mandate would be lifted, leaving businesses to decide if they want to enforce the public health guidance. It was difficult with the mask mandate in place, and now businesses are facing backlash for requiring patrons to continue to wear masks during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
After deciding to continue to require masks, a Houston Mexican restaurant was sent hateful messages through social media. People also called the restaurant threatening to report staff members to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
“It was just horrific,” co-owner of Picos, Monica Richards, told The Washington Post. “People don’t understand unless you’re in our business what it felt like, how hard it was to go through everything we went through during covid. For people to be negative toward us for trying to remain safe so that this doesn’t continue to happen just makes zero sense to us.”
Richards is not alone. Another Houston restaurant, Cantina Barba, has received similar messages. Co-owner Steven Sullivan told the outlet that his staff faced harassment by customers even while the mask mandate was in effect.
“This has been ongoing through covid,” O’Sullivan said. “We’ve had threats of calling ICE. I had one guy just stand there and berate one of my bartenders and tell her, ‘you’re an absolute idiot, you don’t know what you’re doing. If you think these masks are going to save your life, you’re stupid’ blah, blah, blah. Nobody wants to deal with that stuff.”
At another establishment, Grand Prize Bar, an employee received stitches after he was hit in the head with a glass in December after confronting a maskless customer.
In anticipation of potential issues following the governor’s announcement, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo recorded a video statement reminding residents that businesses are within their rights to require patrons to continue to wear masks. Acevedo reminded residents that face coverings can save lives and asked residents to “forget what the governor says, forget what the law says. What does our own humanity call upon us to do?”