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A Texas couple whose 4-month-old son is immunocompromised said they were kicked out of a Dallas-area restaurant after being told they could only stay if they removed their masks.
As reported by The Washington Post, Natalie Wester and her husband, Jose Lopez, went to the Hang Time Bar & Grill in Rowlett, Texas, and had their night cut short after their server informed them that masks were banned from the establishment. They initially thought they were being asked to briefly pull their masks down so the waitstaff could compare their faces to their ID’s, a miscommunication that Wester said was caused by the restaurant’s loud music.
After they pulled their masks back up, the waiter approached their table again 25 minutes later and sat next to Wester. She said that she wasn’t going to get her manager, “because I am nicer than he is,” and said that wearing masks was “political” and that they needed to be removed. It was a rule set in place by the restaurant’s owner, Tom Blackmer, who told the Post that it was his call to make as an investor in a private business. Wester tried to explain her son’s condition to the server, but she insisted that they either remove their masks or pay their bill and leave. They chose the latter, and posted about the incident on Facebook a few hours later.
Blackmer agreed with Wester’s interpretation of what happened but said that he had the right to refuse service to anyone who didn’t abide by Hang Time’s “dress code.” He said that he banned masks in April because he doesn’t believe they stop COVID-19 from spreading, and instead claimed that masks could encourage criminals to commit a crime at his restaurant, where his two grown children work. “I’m not doing things to put them at risk,” he added.
Both Wester and Blackmer have suffered an immense amount of blow back from the incident, with the latter saying he was forced to move out of his house after someone revealed his private information on Twitter. “This town is trying to burn me down,” Blackmer told the outlet. “They are just vicious.” Wester herself has received a flood of Facebook comments, with people pulling up photos of her maskless over the last year to prove that she’s a “liar” when it comes to caring about COVID prevention.
“[M]y husband and I have done our best in a really difficult time to stay happy, healthy, and sane, and us wanting to wear a mask to feel safer at Hang Time was part of that,” Wester said in an email to the Post. “I don’t think that going to a concert, or taking some photos without a mask, negate any part of our experience.” She finished by saying that Blackmer has stated that he “does not care for masks nor believes that they work,” and said that she is “confused why me wearing one (or not wearing one) in any setting would matter to them?”
The CDC has said that masks are effective at preventing the spread of the coronavirus and recommends that people who are not fully vaccinated wear them indoors, while urging people to consider doing it outdoors as well if they live in a high-transmission area.