A Los Angeles Taco chain has decided to close their doors because their mostly-Latino employees faced racial abuse and had water thrown at them by people who refused to wear masks.
Hugo's Tacos, a very popular local chain, announced via social media that both of their locations were taking a break because of the abuse.
"Our Taco Stands are exhausted by the constant conflicts over guests refusing to wear masks," the restaurant wrote in a statement.
"Staff have been harassed, called named, and had objects and liquid thrown at them. A mask isn't symbolic of anything other than our desire to keep our staff healthy."
"Both of our locations are going to take a break and recharge. We've loved serving you for the last 15 years and hope the LA community comes together on the issue so we can feel safe and reopen soon."
In a statement, CEO and part-owner Bill Kohne told BuzzFeed that the harassment "has taken a toll."
"[Harassment] has been reported by employees for as long as we’ve been open under these circumstances, but in the last four to five weeks, it’s gotten a lot more extreme," he said.
"One of our employees wearing a mask was imploring people to behave and to follow that one simple rule; she was one of the employees who had water thrown at her."
"The masks have somehow become symbolic or a political statement," Kohne added, saying that the leadership of the country had turned wearing a mask "into a symbol of something that it is not."
"I’m really trying to avoid politics because we’re just a taco stand...but there's no escaping the truth. Masks have been politicized at the very top of the country for reasons that have nothing to do with being responsible for each other. And it's emboldened some people to turn it into a symbol of something that it is not."
Kohne said that his employees offer masks to customers without one, and are met with "all manner of reactions."
He said that most of those who refuse to wear mask say that it is a violation of their "personal liberties."
"It's like all of a sudden [employees] are having to become a schoolyard monitor — and entirely for customers who refuse to wear masks. We need to take some time to give them a break and consciously think about what barriers to address. We need to take some time to give them a break and consciously think about what barriers to address."
"Fighting with the host, destroying their property, calling them names...it's behavior beyond imagination."
Earlier this month, Gov. Gavin Newsom made wearing a mask in public places mandatory. All Californians must wear face coverings in public and in high-risk settings, such as shops.
“Simply put, we are seeing too many people with faces uncovered — putting at risk the real progress we have made in fighting the disease,” Newsom said in a statement. “California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations. That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing.”
“Social distancing, washing our hands and wearing facial coverings are all simple measures that we can all abide by to protect ourselves and our fellow neighbors,” Riverside County Board of Supervisors Chairman V. Manuel Perez said in a statement. “I am happy that our governor has made this decision.”