Denton diner’s $50 surcharge for ‘having to explain why masks are mandatory’ sign sparks support and objections

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Legends Diner in Denton, Texas, caused a stir after images of a joke sign on its door made it to social media (Courtesy of CW 33)

DENTON, Texas (KXAN) — The owners of 1950s-themed Legends Diner in Denton, Texas, wanted to treat a serious topic across the U.S. with some levity. While the joke didn’t leave everyone laughing, it launched important conversations about business owners’ and individuals’ rights to mask up.

After the sign circulated around Texas Facebook and was covered in The Dallas Morning News, both support and vitriol headed on over to the diner, owned by U.S. Air Force veterans and longtime husband and wife Kat and Wayne LaCombe.

The much-talked about sign read: “Our NEW surcharge: $50 – If I have to explain why masks are mandatory. $75 – If I have to hear why you disagree…”

While the LaCombes are enforcing masking at their business, the charges aren’t being enforced. But that didn’t stop many people from taking the signs at face value – especially in the wake of Texas Governor Greg Abbott ending mandatory mask wearing on March 10.

A Legends Diner sign asking customers to be “courteous” with mask wearing (Courtesy of Legends Diner via Facebook)

A few comments left on the Legends Diner’s Facebook page include: “Will never eat at this place good luck,” “They have a right to ask you to wear a mask. You have a right to disagree and go elsewhere,” and “It’s a joke! No one has a sense of humor these days!”

Kat explained that while the sign began as a slight joke “aimed at people who feel the need to try to argue” about mask-wearing, she says asking customers to practice the courtesy isn’t a lot to ask.

Kat posted a Wednesday clapback after one commenter in particular said “masking is idiotic” and that he “didn’t trust restaurant owners for medical advice.”

In a Facebook post, Kat wrote: “… I do have a medical degree. 28 years as a Registered Nurse, specializing in Oncology. Also 5 years teaching nursing. With my background in healthcare I feel that we are doing the right thing. At the restaurant we comply with city and state mandates. But some things must be done without someone telling you to.”

Legends Diner says despite lifted statewide mandates, staff will continue taking temperature checks as people enter, in addition to having hand sanitizer at each table.

Yes, businesses can enforce mask wearing

Even though Abbott did rescind the statewide mask mandate for individuals, this lifting only refers to public spaces. Private businesses and their owners still have the right to decide whether or not they want to keep the rules in place.

Moreover, a business can refuse service to those who won’t follow the rules — because people who refuse to wear masks aren’t a protected class against discrimination. For those who have medical conditions, businesses must make “reasonable accommodations,” according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

These kind of modifications include allowing customers to place phone or online orders that can be picked up outside, a service many retailers already offer.

Grocery stores — places many people must frequent — have been of particular interest, as they must contend with whether or not to enforce masking when official mandates end.

H-E-B, Texas’ largest grocery retailer, requires masks in its stores. Nationally, masking remains in place as Costco, Sprouts, Target, Walmart, Whole Foods, and Randalls.

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