A Dallas-area couple says they were recently asked by a restaurant to either take off their face masks or leave the establishment.
Natalie Wester and Jose Lopez said they were meeting friends at Hang Time Sports Grill & Bar in Rowlett on the night of Sept. 10 and that after placing an order for drinks and an appetizer their waitress said they needed to remove their face masks or leave.
"Before the appetizer could even come out, our waitress came and sat down next to me. And she stated that you are going to need to take your mask off if you want to be here. This is political, and our owner sent me over here because I'm nicer than he is, but we don't allow masks in the bar," Wester said.
Wester said the waitress then tried to tell them the masks don't work and that they were as effective as using a chainlink fence to stop mosquitoes.
The couple let the waitress know they were wearing masks because they had a son at home, 4-year-old Austin, who has cystic fibrosis and is more vulnerable to infection. The couple told NBC 5 they had been advised by Austin's doctors to not live in a bubble, but to take precautions to prevent the flu, colds, RSV, and COVID-19 by being vaccinated and by wearing a mask when out in public.
Lopez said the waitress didn't seem to care about their motivation for wearing a mask and left them with two options: she could cancel their food order and close their tab or they could take off their masks and stay.
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"I definitely think the owner was just trying to make a point," Wester said. "I think that he felt, perhaps, suppressed because he was told he had to wear a mask and was rebelling against that by not allowing anybody to wear a mask. I don't think that it made a whole lot of sense and wasn't a hospitable thing to do for your customers."
The couple added that there were no signs warning customers that masks were not allowed and that they were not told about the restaurant's policy until after they'd placed an order.
Hoping to save others some time, Wester said she shared a post on social media warning others in a local Rowlett group that the restaurant was not welcoming to people wearing face masks.
NBC 5 reached out to Hang Time but has not received a response. The restaurant owner, Tom Blackmer, told The Dallas Morning News that he made the decision to not allow masks inside in April and that people who don't agree can go somewhere else.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone over the age of 2 wear a mask when indoors, even those who are vaccinated, in areas of high transmission.