AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Restaurant Association, a trade group that represents thousands of restaurants in the state, says some in the restaurant industry are concerned about how local mandates will be implemented and enforced.
They want a state-wide solution and are considering asking Gov. Greg Abbott for a mask mandate.
“We want to be very clear that we support masks,” said Dr. Emily Williams Knight, President and CEO of The Texas Restaurant Association. “There's growing evidence that masks do help slow the spread. And that's good for everyone. I think where we have a challenge as an industry is that we are the ones to enforce that without it being a statewide enforcement.”
A growing number of Texas jurisdictions, including Bexar County, Dallas and Harris Counties this week, are asking businesses to require their employees and customers to wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible.
“If you look back at the early days of COVID-19, you did see instances where there were altercations between employees and consumers when it came to masks,” Williams Knight said. “As someone who's incredibly protective of the 1.3 million employees we have across the state, I'm certainly concerned if I think about our employees on the front line at the front, they tend to be young. They are going to be having to carry a message that maybe not everyone wants to receive. And I think it puts them in a very difficult position.”
This week, nine Texas Mayors asked Governor Abbott to restore their ability to require facial coverings.
He didn’t. The governor has said the government couldn’t and shouldn’t require face coverings.
But said businesses could.
According to TRA, another reason why restaurants want a consistent mask requirement across the state, lots of businesses operate in multiple counties, making it difficult to keep up with the rules in each individual municipality.
The way the trade group sees it now, restaurants should not be enforcing people wearing masks, employees will be just asking customers to wear them.
“If it escalates, if they refuse and I think you leave them alone, you contact law enforcement if necessary,” said Kelsey Erickson Streufert, VP of Government Affairs and Advocacy for TRA. “If there's any kind of sort of safety concern. And I think from there, you know, the restaurant staff backs away and lets law enforcement take over if necessary.”
The test of how this will actually work is in the days to come, when some of the local ordinances kick in.
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