When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week that he would lift a mandate requiring social distancing and masks at businesses in the state, business owners were left with a choice — continue to follow CDC guidelines and keep restrictions in place, or follow in the footsteps of the governor.
Small businesses that have chosen to continue to follow CDC guidelines are now in the awkward position of self-enforcing mandates, even if that task falls to low-wage essential workers. And owners say the backlash to keep restrictions in place say the rhetoric on social media has gotten “ugly.”
The Houston Chronicle reports that social media users have threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on a local Mexican restaurant that chose to keep its mask mandate in place.
“It was horrific,” Monica Richards, the co-owner of Picos restaurant, told the Chronicle.
Days after Abbott announced he was lifting the mask mandate, Picos wrote on social media that it would continue to operate at 75% capacity, and that customers would still be required to wear masks except when eating and drinking.
“If people don’t want to comply, then they can either take their margaritas to go or come back at a different time,” Richards told the Chronicle.
But after informing customers of their plans to keep restrictions in place, the rhetoric turned dark. Richards said she received several messages threatening to turn her staff over to ICE.
“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," Richards told the Washington Post. “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 says she hasn’t received any physical threats, and the positive feedback she’s gotten “far outweighs” negative comments.
Pico’s isn’t alone. According to the Chronicle, a survey conducted by the Texas Restaurant Association says that 72% of its 700 members plan to keep mask mandates in place.
Texas will officially lift its mask mandate on Wednesday. The CDC continues to recommend masks and social distancing while in public, and studies have shown that COVID-19 cases rise when indoor dining restrictions and mask mandates are lifted.