HOUSTON — Americans continue to protest face mask mandates nearly 10 months into the COVID-19 national emergency.
A group of unidentified anti-mask protestors marched outside a small Houston café Saturday night. But their call for others to boycott the business backfired in a big way.
Johnathon White, owner of Miller’s Café, says around 6 p.m. Saturday, a man and woman walked into his restaurant at 3830 N. Shepherd Drive.
“They wanted to dine in with no mask on,” said White.
The pair said they were with apart of 25 people who wanted to eat at the restaurant.
“My employees stated that they needed a mask while walking to their table. And we can provide them one. They proceeded to say that all 25 of them have medical conditions. That they didn’t have to wear a mask. And that we were taking away their constitutional rights. And that they can dine in any restaurant with no mask.”
The three employees who were working at Miller’s Café asked the couple to leave. They did and joined a group of about two dozen people who began to protest Miller’s Café and the restaurant’s effort to abide by local mask ordinances.
The group chanted “boycott Miller’s” for about an hour before White says a neighboring business called police.
“Why? Why? Why take your time, why spend your energy to come and harass a tiny little burger spot,” said White Monday morning. “We take no political stance on anything. We didn’t do anything. We make burgers.”
White re-iterated what so many other small business owners have shared during the pandemic -- he’s just trying to keep his doors open.
It’s why he’s following the mandate. He doesn’t want to be fined or face any trouble from the health department. He wants to keep his staff and customers healthy.
The owner of the 40-year old family-owned business says he’s already laid-off staff, temporarily closed one location, and working to maximize his budget at a time when he can only operate at 75% of the restaurant’s capacity.
That struggle is why Greg Pasquarelli showed up to Miller’s Café an hour before it opened at 11 a.m. Monday. “I love their burgers.”
Pasquarelli, who’s been a customer of the café since 2000, was the first of more than 400 customers who ordered from the restaurant during it’s Monday lunch rush. In a text, White wrote, “normally during this pandemic it’s only been 150-200 for the entire day So to have more than 400 people, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, order a burger...it’s awesome. Such a blessing.”
“This foolishness has to stop. Put on your mask,” said Turner just days after a man was arrested and charged with assault, accused of attacking a bartender after the man refused to wear a face mask in a Houston bar. “We’re not going to let you hurt this business or any other business,” said Turner, “Especially when the businesses are doing the right thing to protect you, me and everybody else.”
“I want everyone safe inside,” said White of his support of face masks during the pandemic. “I cordially invite the protestors to come and have a burger with us. You know? I have nothing against them.”