Owners of a Denton, Texas, diner want customers to know that they are serious when they say face masks are still required in their establishment.
On Monday, Wayne and Kat LaCombe put up a warning sign entrance of Legends Diner— just days after Texas lifted its mandatory mask mandate.
While the sign is tongue-in-cheek, the couple owners said that they did it for the sake of keeping their customers and staff safe.
“Our new surcharge,” the sign reads. “$50 – If I have to explain why masks are mandatory.”
“$75 – If I have to hear why you disagree.”
In a CNN interview, Wayne LaCombe said that he got the idea after seeing a similar sign online.
“I thought, ‘Oh, that’s funny. I’m gonna put that up because it does send a message,'” Wayne said. “And not five minutes after I put it up customers coming in were laughing and taking pictures of it.”
To drive the message home, one of their staff—an art student— painted a woman wearing a mask on the diner’s window with a caption that said masks are respectful, not political.
On March 10, Gov. Greg Abbott loosened restrictions meant to stop the spread of Covid-19, including doing away with the mask requirement and allowing all businesses to reopen 100%.
Abbott did so because active Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations were down to levels not seen in months.
However, critics of the decision said it was too early, citing the small percentage of the number of Texans vaccinated at that time and spreading variants of the virus.
Wayne said he and his wife have gotten their first doses of the vaccine, but many of their staff are yet to be vaccinated.
The diner’s tables are spaced out, they’ve cut down on capacity, staff wear masks and wash their hands between going to each table and they take everyone’s temperature before they enter the building.
There is also hand sanitizer at every table.
Wayne added that two couples came in on Friday and told him that it was the first time they had eaten in a restaurant since the pandemic started.
“We feel very honored and privileged that they have chosen us,” Wayne said.
The owner added they’ve gotten a great response from their customers and some neighboring businesses have congratulated them for making a statement, but there has been some discussion online.
Kat LaCombe is a retired oncology nurse with 28 years of experience and has replied to some of the criticism in a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
“All we ask is that customers wear a mask as they walk past another person that is eating and not wearing a mask,” Kat wrote. “Sure doesn’t seem like a lot to ask…but apparently it is.”
The LaCombes opened their restaurant in October 2019 and had to close for two-and-a-half months because of the pandemic.
Wayne said he’s not sure the business can survive if they have to close again.
“We have a race that we have not finished, and when the numbers go up our business goes down,” Wayne said. “So yes, it’s very urgent that we keep the numbers down.”