A bizarre and unimaginable policy of no masks inside a restaurant was what one couple encountered on a casual date night. Usually staying at home due to having a four-month-old son, Natalie Wester, and her husband, Jose Lopez-Guerrero, were thrilled to find a sitter and have the opportunity to go out with friends.
However, a well-deserved, long, and overdue date with friends turned into a regrettable experience. Why? Because the young couple chose to wear their masks and the restaurant owner didn’t like it.
Lose The Mask Or Get Out
Wester and Lopez-Guerrero went to the Hang Time Sports Grill & Bar, located in Rowlett, Texas, about 20 miles northeast of Dallas, on Sept. 10. When they arrived, the couple wore face masks to protect their immunocompromised four-month-old son with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that causes difficulties with breathing and digestion.
Apart from eating and drinking, Wester and her husband said they always wear facemasks in public. Though both parents are immunized, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) strongly advise wearing a mask indoors in high transmittance areas and when someone in the household is immunocompromised. As a result, Wester and her husband wore a mask to Hang Time Sports Grill & Bar on their date night following CDC recommendations.
When they arrived, there was no signage outside of the establishment stating they were required to remove their facemasks. As a result, Wester and her husband walked in wearing their masks. They were, however, greeted by a hostess who asked them to take their masks off. Taking this as a sign to check IDs, the couple entered the restaurant and bar without incident.
Approximately 30 minutes later, Wester recalled how the waitress made an appearance at the group’s table. However, instead of politely checking in, she relayed a jaw-dropping message from the manager.
Wester said, “About 30 minutes in, our waitress comes over and she sits down next to me and she’s like, ‘Hey, so our manager is over there in the kitchen, and he is not as nice as I am so I came over here to talk to you and unfortunately, this is a political thing, but our manager does not believe in the mask.”
Wester said that at that moment she felt “speechless.” She explained, “You know, I’ve never been told that before, especially not in Texas. It’s usually like the opposite way around.”
In their defense, Wester and her husband explained to the waitress that they had purchased food. Additionally, they wore face masks to protect their immunocompromised son with cystic fibrosis. Despite their discomfort, their feelings on the matter didn’t affect the waitress.
Feeling incredibly uncomfortable, both Wester and her husband did not want to remove their masks. In light of this, the waitress said the check would have to be closed.
“We didn’t want to make a scene,” Wester explained. “We didn’t want to walk out on our tab or anything. I just paid and we left.”
Can Private Businesses Say No To Masks?
In an interview with CNN affiliate KTVT, the manager Tom recollects the couple being asked to leave because they didn’t remove their face coverings at the door.
“I’ve spent my money on this business, I’ve put my blood, sweat, and tears in this business and I don’t want any masks in here,” he said.
Despite the scientific medical arguments favoring a mask, the restaurant owner revealed that his no-mask policy is politically driven and fueled by division.
“I feel the overall reaction with masks is ridiculous in the United States right now,” the owner said. “So when they put their masks on the other night, they were reminded that they were asked at the front to take it off. They didn’t want to, so we asked them to leave.”
So, did the owner of the restaurant make a good decision here? Though a majority of Americans may agree that this is a gross overreaction, he is within his rights in some respects. According to an associate professor at the University of Houston Law Center, private businesses can impose whatever rules they wish on their customers. However, in doing so, they cannot discriminate against certain outlined protections.
For example, it is generally acceptable for restaurants to ban masks, so long as they don’t force anyone to remove their mask with a condition making them vulnerable to COVID-19 (or if they live with someone vulnerable to COVID-19). Furthermore, state and local governments often add new categories that are prohibited from discrimination, such as pregnancy.
In Wester’s case, her son is immunocompromised, and she may have a case here. Although the couple told the waitress that they were wearing masks to protect their son, the manager denies knowing what their reasoning was.
In light of this unfortunate situation, they hope the owner of Hang Time Sports Grill & Bar will reconsider his policies. As well, they hope customers pay closer attention to who they’re doing business with.