Monday, 8 March 2021

Customers threaten to call immigration authorities on owners of Mexican restaurant in Houston after they insist they will keep mask rule despite Gov. Abbott vowing to 'open Texas 100 percent'

 Customers have threatened to call the immigration authorities on the owners of a Mexican restaurant in Houston after they said they will keep a mask mandate in place despite Governor Gregg Abbott vowing to 'open Texas 100 percent'.

The Richards family, who own Mexican restaurant Picos, said they have been bombarded with abusive messages from some patrons following their announcement they will continue to require customers to wear masks.  

This comes after Abbott announced Tuesday he was lifting all COVID-19 restrictions including the mask mandate on March 10 in the Lone Star State where more than 45,000 residents have so far died from the virus. 


From Wednesday, businesses in Texas can welcome back customers at 100 percent capacity but have the power to continue to enforce mask mandates or other COVID-19 restrictions in their establishments if they see fit. 

The governor's relaxation of rules came despite Joe Biden, the CDC and Dr. Fauci all urging states not to drop their guard before residents are vaccinated, with the president slamming the likes of Abbott for his 'Neanderthal thinking.' 

Customers have threatened to call the immigration authorities on the owners of Picos (above), a Mexican restaurant in Houston, after they said they will keep a mask mandate in place despite Governor Gregg Abbott vowing to 'open Texas 100 percent'

Customers have threatened to call the immigration authorities on the owners of Picos (above), a Mexican restaurant in Houston, after they said they will keep a mask mandate in place despite Governor Gregg Abbott vowing to 'open Texas 100 percent'

Monica Richards, co-owner of Picos, said staff have been bombarded with abusive messages from some patrons following their announcement that they will continue to require customers to wear masks

Monica Richards, co-owner of Picos, said staff have been bombarded with abusive messages from some patrons following their announcement that they will continue to require customers to wear masks

Picos' co-owner Monica Richards told the Washington Post several people sent 'horrific' messages on social media and called the restaurant after they decided to keep a mask mandate in place for customers.

Some of the perpetrators even threatened to report staff members to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, she said. 

'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 said.

'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 said the threats to call ICE were especially upsetting given the family is Mexican and has been through the immigration process in the past.  

'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,' she told the Post. 

'It's just heartbreaking.' 

The threats came after Picos shared a post on Facebook Wednesday saying both staff and customers will continue to be required to social distance and wear masks when not seated.

This comes after Governor Abbott (pictured) announced Tuesday he was lifting all COVID-19 restrictions including the mask mandate on March 10 in the Lone Star State where more than 45,000 residents have so far died from the virus

This comes after Governor Abbott (pictured) announced Tuesday he was lifting all COVID-19 restrictions including the mask mandate on March 10 in the Lone Star State where more than 45,000 residents have so far died from the virus

Texas Governor Greg Abbott lifts COVID-19 restrictions
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'With all of our hard work and combined community efforts we will continue to maintain table distancing and proper social distancing at Pico's,' the restaurant said. 

'We will require masks on every staff member and any customer walking into or around our establishment while not seated. 

'We feel this decision is best to protect our employees, and guests alike and we kindly ask for your support in following these guidelines while visiting with us.'   

News of the threats directed toward Picos' staff sparked outrage from members of the community and state Democrats who defended the restaurant staff for both their right to set their own business requirements and their efforts to protect staff and patrons from the virus.  

Democrat Julian Castro, who served as Barack Obama's Housing and Urban Development secretary, shared the Post's report and tagged his brother, Texas Democrat Rep. Joaquin Castro, on Twitter.

'Well @JoaquinCastrotx, it seems our state keeps making the news these days for all the wrong reasons.' 

Joaquin Castro has previously slammed Abbott's lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and urged Texans to not 'let our guard down'.

Steven O'Sullivan, owner of Mexican restaurant Cantina Barba (above), said customers have screamed in his staff's faces and refused to wear masks throughout the pandemic that has so far killed 524,000 Americans

Steven O'Sullivan, owner of Mexican restaurant Cantina Barba (above), said customers have screamed in his staff's faces and refused to wear masks throughout the pandemic that has so far killed 524,000 Americans

'Governor Abbott's failure to listen to science and medical advice will cost Texans their lives,' he tweeted Tuesday, following the governor's announcement.

'This decision is reckless and dangerous—and a desperate distraction from the Governor's dereliction of duty during the power outages. 

'He's putting politics above the people of Texas.' 

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo also issued a video statement Wednesday reminding residents that businesses have the right to enforce their own mask rules and said anyone not wanting to comply should 'take your business elsewhere.'

'We want to remind you that private entities, private businesses have a legal right to require you to wear masks,' he said.

'If you go to a business and they tell you to wear a mask please either wear the mask or decide to take our business elsewhere just remember if you remain in the business after they ask to leave can be arrested for criminal trespass.' 

Acevedo urged people to 'make good choices' and 'have common decency' adding that we are 'close' to getting the population vaccinated.   

News of the threats directed toward Picos' staff sparked outrage from members of the community and state Democrats who defended the restaurant staff for both their right to set their own business requirements and their efforts to protect staff and patrons from the virus

News of the threats directed toward Picos' staff sparked outrage from members of the community and state Democrats who defended the restaurant staff for both their right to set their own business requirements and their efforts to protect staff and patrons from the virus

'We are close to winning the battle against COVID,' he said.   

Richards said the family has also received an outpouring of support from some customers who slammed the people making threats and said they were glad the restaurant is keeping its COVID-19 precautions in place. 

'That other side has been wonderful,' she told the Post. 'We had a wonderful day yesterday. Our staff was thrilled and thankful.'   

Staff at another Houston restaurant told the Post they have also faced abuse while trying to get patrons to wear face coverings even as the mask mandate was in place in Texas - sparking concerns over the treatment they may endure come March 10.

Steven O'Sullivan, owner of Mexican restaurant Cantina Barba, said customers have screamed in his staff's faces and refused to wear masks throughout the pandemic that has so far killed 524,000 Americans.   

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo issued a video statement Wednesday reminding residents that businesses have the right to enforce their own mask rules

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo issued a video statement Wednesday reminding residents that businesses have the right to enforce their own mask rules

'This has been ongoing through COVID,' O'Sullivan said. 

'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' blah, blah, blah. Nobody wants to deal with that stuff.' 

The Texas Restaurant Association told the Post restaurant owners are making decisions that are right for them and branded it 'strange' that customers would 'criticize or throw insults at people who are trying to do just that'.

The organization said most of the state's restaurant owners have vowed to continue to require their staff to wear masks but there is a split over whether or not to require the same of their customers.   

The furore came off the back of Abbott's announcement Tuesday that the state's mask mandates and restrictions will end on March 10 as he vowed it was time to 'open Texas 100 percent'.  

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves almost immediately followed suit announcing he was rolling back all county mask mandates and removing statewide restrictions on all businesses from Wednesday, with the exception of maintaining a 50 percent capacity on indoor arenas and keeping rules in place for K-12 schools.  


The steps taken by the two states are some of the most drastic to date in lifting COVID-19 restrictions as cases, deaths and hospitalizations fall and the vaccine rollout continues. 

In Texas, 15.5 percent of residents have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while 8.4 percent have been fully inoculated. 

Nationwide, 90.3 million doses have gone into the arms of Americans.   

But Biden blasted the Republican governors for their 'Neanderthal thinking' for liftign restrictions before their residents are fully vaccinated and urged Americans to keep wearing masks. 

CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky echoed his concerns this week, saying Texas and Mississippi's decision to defy federal guidelines and drop mask requirements are premature.

'Now is not the time to release all restrictions,' she said. 'The next month or two is really pivotal in terms of how this pandemic goes. I would still encourage individuals to wear a mask, to socially distance.'  

Meanwhile Dr. Fauci described the move as 'inexplicable' and said restrictions shouldn't be eased until new daily COVID-19 cases fall below 10,000.  

The US as a whole has reported between 65-68,000 cases over the past few days, but on Saturday that number dipped to 59,620. 

More than 28.9 million cases of the virus have been confirmed in the US since the start of the pandemic last year. 

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