A Mexican restaurant in Houston says it's been getting some "horrific" threats after announcing it was keeping its mask requirement as Texas reopens.
Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed an executive order lifting the statewide mask mandate and allowing businesses and facilities to operate at 100% capacity. The rollbacks go into effect March 10.
After Picos announced it would still require masks for diners, co-owner Monica Richards said she started receiving some disturbing messages and calls from people threatening to report the Picos staff to Immigration and Customs and Enforcement, The Houston Chronicle reported.
They also said the staff's green cards and paperwork needed to be examined, the newspaper reported.
"It was just horrific," Richards told The Washington Post. "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. 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."
She told the Chronicle that Picos has "always been by the book" and that she never imagined people would "go that far."
Picos has called Houston home for nearly 40 years. It's keeping capacity at no more than 75% and requiring customers to wear masks when they're not eating or drinking, the Chronicle reported.
"Being Hispanic, and going through that immigration process, and finally receiving your papers, and then for somebody to start threatening you after you've been through all that, that's crazy," Richards said. "It's just heartbreaking."
Cantina Barba, another Houston Mexican restaurant, has received similar threats and told the Post its staff was bullied when the statewide mask mandate was still in effect.
"This has been ongoing through COVID," co-owner Steven O'Sullivan told the newspaper. "We've had threats of calling ICE. I had one guy just stand there and berate one of my bartenders and tell her 'you're an absolute idiot, you don't know what you're doing. If you think these masks are going to save your life, you're stupid.' ... Nobody wants to deal with that stuff."
The Texas Restaurant Association has urged restaurants to keep mask requirements for workers and encourage patrons to don masks when they're not at their tables.
When Abbott announced the state was dropping its mask requirement, he said businesses still have a right to determine their own safety protocols.
"If businesses want to limit capacity or implement additional safety protocols, they have the right to do so," he said, KHOU reported.
But it wasn't long before many took to social media claiming that asking patrons to leave for not wearing masks is illegal. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo dispelled that notion last week.
"Private businesses enjoy property rights and may require folks to wear a mask," he wrote on Twitter. "Please respect their property rights. If you decline to wear a mask and are asked to leave and refuse, you may be committing the offense of criminal trespass."
Acevedo said businesses can call police for help if someone won't leave the store and added that those who don't like a business' policy can go elsewhere, KHOU reported.
Many big companies with stores in Texas have said they'll still require customers to wear masks, including Walmart, Target, CVS and Kroger.
And McDonald's said last week that it will continue to keep its dining rooms closed to customers.