(Trends Wide) — A Texas couple who rarely go out with their friends got some free time to enjoy a night out. But the plan was cut short when they were kicked out of the restaurant where they were for wearing masks, something they say they do to protect their immunosuppressed four-month-old baby.
Natalie Wester and her husband, Jose Lopez-Guerrero, joined a group of friends at a restaurant and bar in Rowlett, located about 30 km northeast of Dallas, on September 10.
“We are new parents and in the middle of a pandemic, we don’t really hang out much,” Wester told Trends Wide. “But that Friday night, it turns out that my mother was available to take care of our son (…). Living in a pandemic, being isolated and away from others is a big problem for our mental and social health,” he said. .
Their baby has cystic fibrosis, they said, so they’ve taken precautions to stay safe and do what’s best for their family, and that includes wearing a mask in public, except when they’re drinking or drinking.
But the restaurant they visited, Hang Time Sports Grill & Bar, has a no-mask policy, according to its owner, whom Trends Wide affiliate KTVT identified only as Tom. Wester said he was not aware of the policy.
Trends Wide contacted Hang Time Sports Grill & Bar on Monday via email and phone, but received no response.
“At about 30 minutes, our waitress comes over and sits next to me and says, ‘Hey, our manager is there in the kitchen and he’s not as nice as me, so I came here to talk to you and sadly this it’s a political issue, but our manager doesn’t believe in the mask. He’s tired of politicians telling him what to do, so you’ll have to remove the mask, “Wester said.
On March 10, Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the mask-wearing mandate in Texas, saying that businesses of any kind were allowed to open at 100% capacity. At the county level, a judge cannot jail anyone for not following COVID-19 orders and no sanctions can be imposed on people who don’t wear masks, he said.
“If covid hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas increase by about 15% of hospital bed capacity in that region for seven days in a row, then a county judge in that region can use covid mitigation strategies. in your county, “Abbott said.
“I spent my money in this business, I put my blood, sweat and tears in this business and I don’t want masks here,” Tom told KTVT on camera. “I feel like the general reaction to the masks in America is ridiculous right now,” he added.
Leave the mask or table
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends even vaccinated people to wear a mask in closed public places if they are in high transmission areas or if they or a member of the your home have a weakened immune system. On the other hand, they encourage unvaccinated people to wear masks in closed public places until they are fully vaccinated.
When Wester walked into the restaurant, he said, he remembers being asked to remove his mask, but assumed it was so the hostess could match his face to his ID.
“When we walked into the restaurant, there was a band playing and it was really loud,” he said. “And the hostess had asked for our IDs and she mentioned something about taking off our masks, but I honestly thought it was to verify our IDs. And again, I couldn’t even hear her that well,” he recalled.
“So when they (the couple) put on their masks the other night, they were reminded that they were asked at the front to take them off and they didn’t want to, so we asked them to leave,” Tom told KTVT.
After the waitress came over to convey the manager’s message that they had to remove their masks, Wester said he was “speechless.”
Wester said he explained that they were customers who had already bought food and that he had a son at home with cystic fibrosis, but the waitress did not relent.
“And you know, even though both my husband and I are vaccinated, every time we can go out we put on a mask, even if it’s just walking among people, (…) Obviously it’s not like a perfect system – you have You have to take off your mask to eat, maybe to take pictures, things like that— but we do the best we can, “he said, he replied to the waitress.
Wester said that she did not feel comfortable removing her mask, to which the waitress replied that if that was the case, she would have to close her account.
“We didn’t want to make a scene,” Wester said. “We didn’t want to leave mad or anything. I just paid and we left.”
“I want to respect small businesses,” he said. “And I know that right now in (the) covid pandemic and with the economy it’s very difficult. But I don’t think the way he (Tom) runs his business is very professional, and he’s not very hospitable either.”
The couple have dated only a few times since their son was born, Wester said. The experience has made them feel like it’s not worth going out again, he said.
“You know, trying to not only take all the steps to get a babysitter or to take care of my son, that’s a step in itself, but then go out and have to deal with people like this who are anti-masks (…) and that they are turning it into a really political issue when it should be a scientific issue, “he said.
“It made me realize that maybe I shouldn’t go out anymore,” he said. “At least not here in Texas. Not right now. It’s not a good environment.”
Is the use of a mask protected by the federal government?
The United States Department of Justice describes the federal government’s protections for Americans based on race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status, national origin, and citizenship, but does not describe any protections. specifically regarding face masks.
For the most part, when it comes to federal law, private companies can impose whatever rules they want on their clients, as long as they don’t discriminate against those who fall under the protections outlined, the Center’s associate professor of law told Trends Wide. University of Houston Law Emily Berman.
Generally, companies can prohibit the use of masks with two important caveats.
“First, if someone has a certain physical condition that makes them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 (or lives with someone particularly vulnerable to COVID-19), that condition could be considered a disability,” he said. “If so, there is an argument that forcing that person to remove the mask or leave the premises could constitute discrimination on the basis of disability.”
“Second, state and local governments often expand the list of categories against which discrimination is prohibited,” he said. “So things like pregnancy, transgender status, marital status, etc. get protection in certain jurisdictions, which means that different rules may apply in different places.”
If there is a prohibition of discrimination based on the clothing a person wears, this could apply here, according to Berman.
Wester does not plan to take legal action, he said. Their goal in sharing their experience was to “encourage the owner to review their policies and also encourage their customers to perhaps take another look at who they are giving their money to.”