A masked Texas couple said that management at a Rowlett, Texas, bar and restaurant told them that they had to take off their face coverings — or leave.
The couple said that they wore masks into the establishment earlier this month in order to protect their newborn son, who had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
What are the details?
Natalie Wester and husband Jose Lopez — both fully vaccinated — were visiting Hang Time with friends when a waitress approached the table and told them that the manager demanded they take off their masks while inside the establishment.
Wester and Lopez just entered the restaurant when a hostess inside the door asked them to take off their masks.
According to a Facebook post, Wester initially believed that she wanted to see her and Lopez's faces for identification purposes, but realized otherwise when a waitress arrived at the table a short time later and told them to remove their masks once more.
"About half an hour passes and our waitress comes, sits down next to me, and says 'Our manager sent me over because I'm nicer than he is. And yes, this is political,'" Wester recalled the waitress saying. "She then told me that masks are not allowed in their building, and they can make the rules because they are private business. She said that the mask 'doesn't work, is like using a chain-link fence to keep out mosquitoes, and doesn't give people enough oxygen.'"
Wester said that she informed the waitress that she and Lopez wear masks due to her son's cystic fibrosis condition.
"[S]he told me that she could close my check for me if it was an issue," Wester continued. "Fine. My husband and I paid and left without a scene."
'Overall reaction with masks is ridiculous'
Wester said that she was taken aback by the instruction and was disappointed that her time away from her child was sullied.
"If you've ever been new parents and what not, having those couple of hours out like once a month or twice a month is so important for your mental health," she told KTVT-TV.
The policy, according to KTVT-TV, is part of the establishment's dress code.
The owner, Tom Blackmer, told the station that as his bar and restaurant is a private business, he has every right to refuse services to those people who want to wear masks inside.
"I have spent my money on the business, I put my blood, sweat, and tears in this business, and I don't want any masks in here," he insisted. "I feel the overall reaction with masks is ridiculous in the United States right now."
The owner said that he was unaware of the couple's immunocompromised son, but firmly stands by the rule — which he will continue to enforce.
No Mask Policy Enforced At North Texas Restaurant www.youtube.com
'If you're scared, stay at home'
Blackmer told the Dallas Morning News that since the story made national news, he has received threatening phone calls from across the country.
"She was told on the way in that we don't allow masks," he told the outlet. "They have a choice to go wherever they want; there are thousands of bars around here. Go somewhere else."
Blackmer added perhaps the family ought to stay home if they are so concerned about protecting the immunocompromised newborn.
"If you are protecting somebody, you should not go out," he insisted.
"If they are protecting themselves, or if they're protecting others, they should not be here," he added. "If you're scared, stay at home."
'It's a free market'
A bar owner, according to Rockwall County Judge David Sweet, can certainly enforce a "no masks allowed" policy.
“It's a free market," Sweet said. "There is no local mandate in place, and a business owner has the rights to operate his or her business as he or she sees fit."
Wester told the outlet that the business mandate was purely political.
"My first thought it, we wear a mask to protect people — either ourselves or others," she said. "But it seemed like their reasoning for not letting us wear a mask was purely political. It was almost as if they're poking fun. ... With [Gov.] Greg Abbott no longer requiring masks in Texas, it felt like they were using it to their advantage."