A Mexican restaurant in Houston, Texas, started receiving threats on social media when owners decided they were going to keep face masks mandatory after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the state mandate, which will go into effect March 10.
Many health officials have criticized Abbott for his decision, especially since only 15.2% of Texans have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. This ranks Texas 46 of 50 states in vaccine distribution.
Arnaldo Richards, co-owner and executive chef of Picos, isn’t in the restaurant business to play politics. He and his family decided to keep the mask mandate in place at his establishment for one simple reason: to keep his customers and employees safe.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Richards told Remezcla during an interview Sunday night (March 7). “We decided we were going to stay with the status quo and keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last 11 months, which is wearing face masks, social distancing and sanitizing tables and chairs.
Online threats aimed at Picos’ employees included people saying they were going to call ICE authorities on them. Richards isn’t sure why people are angry since Abbott’s executive order lifting the ban states that “businesses may still…implement additional safety protocols at their own discretion.”
“What I interpreted from the governor was that he was giving us the choice to continue with the mask mandate or not,” Richards said.
While there was some negative reaction to Picos’ decision, Richards said the support for the restaurant has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The community is really supporting us in what we’re doing,” he said. “For me, it was more of a personal decision than a business decision. I need to protect my employees and my customers. We need at least 75% of people to get this vaccine, so we can move forward. We need to follow the science.”