A California Taco Chain Is Temporarily Closing Because Employees Are Being Harassed Over Face Masks

Kristin Salaky
Photo credit: Hugo's Tacos - Instagram

From Delish

A California taco chain has temporarily closed both of its taco stands after its employees have been reportedly harassed and had things thrown at them by customers who didn't want to wear a mask, according to BuzzFeed News.

In a statement on its Instagram page, Hugo's Tacos said it would be "taking a break" after employees have faced a barrage of harassment during the COVID-19 pandemic, following up the post with the #NoMaskNoTaco.

"Our Taco Stands are exhausted by the constant conflicts over guests refusing to wear masks," the statement reads in part: "Staff have been harassed, called names, and had objects and liquids thrown at them. A mask isn't symbolic of anything other than our desire to keep our staff healthy."

CEO and part-owner Bill Kohne told BuzzFeed that customers have also been using racial slurs at his employees, many of whom are Latino. He added that it's a shame that masks have become politicized when they are simply a matter of public health.

"I’m really trying to avoid politics because we’re just a taco stand...but there's no escaping the truth," he told BuzzFeed. "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."

Video: Sheet pan pineapple shrimp tacos make cleanup a breeze

Kohne said the harassment has been understandably tough on employees and he hopes the break will help them to recharge and will allow the company time to find a path forward to keep everyone safer. In the meantime, a GoFundMe has been set up to benefit employees. You can donate here.

This announcement is just the latest in a series of incidents involving customers who refuse to wear face masks, even as, in places like California, they are required in public places. Over the weekend, a video went viral showing a woman berating Trader Joe's employees and customers after she refused to wear a mask. A Starbucks customer, also in California, attempted to shame an employee for telling her he wouldn't serve her without a mask. Supporters have since raised thousands in support of him.

As a reminder, the CDC "recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission."

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