DALLAS (KXAN) — A Dallas-area couple say they were asked to leave a restaurant last week — after the restaurant said they’d broken its policy against wearing masks.
Natalie Wester says she and her husband Jose were dining at the Hang Time grill in Rowlett, a Dallas suburb, when their server approached and asked them to take off their face masks. The couple, who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, say they’re cautious about public outings because of their four-month-old immunocompromised child.
“About half an hour passes and our waitress comes sits down next to me and says ‘Our manager sent me over because I’m nicer than he is. And yes, this is political,’” says Wester. “She stated that we were not allowed to wear masks in the building per the management. He did not believe they worked and did not want anyone in his business wearing them.”
At this point, Wester informed the server that she and her husband wear masks to try minimizing COVID-19 exposure, in addition to seasonal illnesses like RSV and the flu. Wester’s son has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease affecting the child’s lungs and digestive system. The condition makes it tougher to fight off infections, Wester explains.
“I informed my waitress of this information,” Wester says. “And she told me that she could close my check for me if it was an issue. Fine. My husband and I paid and left without a scene.”
Wester says the request shocked and confused her — especially in a state like Texas.
“Usually in Texas, people advocate for ‘freedom of choice,’ after all,” she says.
As the story circulated social media, so did reactions to the incident. Wester says the responses she’s received have been divided.
“I have received many negative comments stating that the story is blown out of proportion, that we are attention-seeking, or that we were in the wrong. On the other hand, a numerous amount of folks have reached out in support of our decisions that night and how we have handled the media thus far.”
She adds that other families with children affected by cystic fibrosis have reached out to her family — and has served as a reminder of why it’s important to share her experience.
Wester says while she’d been to the restaurant before in the past, she hadn’t been since the current ownership. No one from Hang Time team has reached out to Wester, she says.
“I strongly feel that this ‘no mask’ rule was made with ill intent,” she says. “I definitely think that the owner has made the well-being of his staff and customers political and is requiring the policy in rebuttal to the previous mask mandate Texas had.”
According to Texas law, while private businesses are within their rights to require masks, they’re also able to ban them. Requiring masks in governmental bodies — like city facilities and public schools — is banned, however, due to an executive order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
She says she’s gone public with her experience because she hopes other people who are concerned about COVID-19 exposure can avoid the restaurant.
“I am so shocked at the level of ignorance in our country, and scared to think how much worse the pandemic will get knowing so many folks think this way,” Wester says.
KXAN has reached out to Hang Time in Rowlett. We’ll update when we’ve heard back.