Amarillo business owners on mask policies, tips from APD on de-escalating tension over masks

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — As Texas fully reopens on Wednesday, local businesses must decide individually whether to require customers to wear masks.

MyHighPlains.com reached out to several businesses that already made their mask policies public but many did not respond or were unavailable for interviews.

As of Friday, at least two Amarillo restaurants decided not to continue asking customers to wear masks and shared the reasoning behind those decisions.

Jorge’s Mexican Bar and Grill will not require masks, but the owner, Jorge Albarran, said staff will wear them for now.

“I think people are kind of tired of wearing masks. We’ll leave that up to them. If they want to wear a mask, they can wear a mask. For my staff, we’re still going to keep them wearing masks for a little bit,” Albarran said on Friday.

Albarran also said Jorge’s will keep glass dividers up and continue their sanitization processes.

Brent’s Cafe also will not require masks for guests.

“I can’t make anybody do anything and if the governor says that the customers don’t need to wear masks and if they don’t want to wear masks, then that’s their prerogative,” said Owner and Chef, Brent Lancour. “Our employees will continue to wear masks. We’ll continue sanitizing the restaurant as usual.”

Lancour said staff will continue the sanitization process they used over the last year, cleaning and disinfecting every half hour. They also will not add more tables.

“We’re going to maintain our 75% capacity because that’s the maximum amount of people that I can get in here and still maintain distance between our tables,” Lancour added. “We used to have seven more tables than what we have right now and one day, I hope to get back to it, but right now we’re not ready for it.”

Under Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R-Texas) newest Executive Order, GA-34, private businesses still have the right to require masks.

Palace Coffee Company posted to Facebook, saying their stores will continue asking customers to mask up. Staff will continue wearing masks as their locations operate at 75% capacity.

“As owners, we feel a responsibility to at least protect our staff as much as we can and so until they have the opportunity to be vaccinated, we want to make sure that, you know, everyone is wearing masks coming in just to protect them,” said Krystal Burns, one of the owners at Palace Coffee Company. “I don’t feel like I could ask them to sell my products, and you know, put their health or their loved ones’ health at risk.”

Businesses can still call relevant authorities to report trespassing violations and remove those who refuse to wear masks.

“If someone comes into your business, and they’re not doing what you’ve asked them to do, and you’ve asked them to leave and they’re not doing that, yes, we will come out there and help you and try to help solve this problem,” Amarillo Police Department Sgt. Carla Burr said. “It may be just asking them to leave, that’s fine. We don’t mind doing that.”

Sgt. Burr said we should all try to de-escalate any potential tension over mask policies by having respect for individuals and businesses.

“If it’s a business that says you have to wear one, wear one. If it’s a business that doesn’t, and there are people in there that are wearing them, show respect to them, don’t give them a hard time about it,” Sgt. Burr continued. “If you’re in a business, and they don’t make you wear a mask, and they’re not wearing masks, if you don’t like that, leave the business and go somewhere else. I mean, we can all work through this and get through this, and, and still show respect to each other as, as community members and human beings.”

Sgt. Burr also said she and other law enforcement officers have already been given access to the vaccine, but not everyone else has. She said this is one more reason to be understanding about other points of view regarding masks.

“There are a lot of people out there in our community that have not been allowed to go get vaccinations yet and they maybe feel vulnerable. And a lot of them I know, there’s some local businesses that have chosen to continue the mask mandate to protect their employees. And so, we need to respect that. If that is how they feel is the best way to protect their family and their employees and the people that work in their business, we should respect that as customers,” Sgt. Burr said. “And if that means you don’t go there because you don’t want to wear a mask, that’s fine. That’s still showing them respect.”

She said the same patience and respect should be given to those who are not wearing masks, which will help limit unnecessary confrontation.

“Maybe there’s a legitimate reason they don’t have one on. So, you know, confronting them and saying that they just don’t care about people is going to escalate that situation,” Sgt. Burr said. “Same thing, if you see someone wearing a mask, and you don’t agree with the mask thing, saying things to them that are rude and hateful because they’re wearing one, that doesn’t help the situation. They feel safe and protected and they should, that’s what it has shown, that it’s helped.”

No matter what each individual or business chooses to do moving forward with mask policies, Sgt. Burr said it is important to understand we are all experiencing COVID-19 together.

“We are in a pandemic, there are people that have died from this disease, there are people that continue to get sick. So we just need to continue to work together to try to get our country through this,” Sgt. Burr said.

Both Jorge’s and Brent’s Café still offer to-go and curbside services for those who do not want to dine indoors.

Burns said Palace Coffee Company also has a mobile app for ordering and also offers curbside service for anyone who does not wish to wear a mask in their stores.

“You only have to wear a mask to order and to pick up your coffee and when you’re up in the shop, once you’re at a table, you can easily take your mask off once you’re able to be socially distant from others,” Burns said.

According to Burns, the company is willing to assume risk in continuing its mask policy.

“We may lose potential customers. We’re okay with that because again, our first priority is to keep our staff and the patrons that do feel safe coming here, we want to make them still feel safe,” Burns added. “And you know, if someone chooses not to come because they don’t want to wear a mask, that’s totally fine. Hopefully, when everything’s back to normal, maybe they’ll come back and give us another try.”

Click on the video clips below to watch full interviews with Sgt. Carla Burr and Krystal Burns:


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