Texas Diner Threatens to Charge for Arguments About Wearing Masks

The co-owners of Legends Diner in Denton posted a sign on the restaurant in mid-March 2021, instructing guests to wear masks even though the mask mandate has been lifted in Texas. It says diners will pay $50 "if I have to explain why masks are mandatory" and $75 "if I …
Wayne LaCombe

Legends Diner in Denton, Texas sparked controversy after posting a sign saying customers would be charged for having to deal with mask-related disagreements.

A handwritten pink paper sign appeared in the front window of Legends Diner in Denton, Texas just days after Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to lift the state’s official mask mandate. The sign announces a new two-step surcharge for potential  customers: $50 if owners Wayne and Kat LaCombe “have to explain why masks are mandatory,” and $75 if they “have to hear why you disagree.”

While they say the sign may have started as a joke, the principle behind it is important to the LaCombes. “I just can’t afford to get the virus. We’d have to shut our business down,” Wayne LaCombe, a 41-year resident of Denton, told The Dallas Morning News. Beyond his own safety, LaCombe said he wanted to protect their predominantly senior customer base. “We want to stay safe for them,” he said. “For our customers, our employees, it’s the right thing to do.”

Co-owner and wife Kat LaCombe is a retired nurse, as well as the co-owner and chef of the diner. In a post to the diner’s official Facebook page on Wednesday, Kat called out a potential customer who claimed not to trust anyone but medical professionals for health advice. Kat explained how the business goes beyond mandates to protect their customers — and why they expect the same from anyone who walks in the door.

“I do have a Medical degree. 28 years as a Registered Nurse, specializing in Oncology,” LaCombe wrote. “Also 5 years teaching nursing. With my background in healthcare I feel that we are doing the right thing.” She continued:

At the restaurant we comply with city and state mandates. But some things must be done without someone telling you to. We wash each table with peroxide. We removed several tables to provide a safer distance when masks are removed. We use disposable salt and pepper, disposable menus. All of this costs extra but we believe that it’s worth it. All we ask is that customers wear a mask as they walk past another person that is eating and not wearing a mask. Sure dosen’t [sic] seem like a lot to ask…but apparently it is.

She confirmed in the post that the sign was “sort of a joke,” meant to highlight the issue, and stressed that “no one wants this world to get back to normal more than small business owners.” Wayne LaCombe said they had yet to enforce the policy, although he had been tempted.

“I had two ladies who just left; and I was getting ready to charge them,” LaCombe said. “They came in wearing a mask; they had breakfast. … When they came up to pay, they didn’t have their mask on and I had to explain to them why it was important.” Even so, he said, “I didn’t charge them.”

Governor Abbott lifted state-wide mandatory mask usage requirements in public spaces on March 10, but private businesses are allowed to make their own decisions for their locations. In addition to their mask rule, Legends Diner continues temperature checks, and keeps hand sanitizer at each table.

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