Hugo’s Tacos announced Sunday that it would temporarily close its two locations in Los Angeles after employees reported a growing wave of harassment from customers irritated by the company’s “no mask, no service” policy.
The harassment, ranging from racial epithets to drinks thrown at workers through command windows, had an emotional impact on predominantly Latino employees, said Bill Kohne, co-owner of Hugo Tacos, to The Times.
“We have noticed that in the past four weeks, these incidents have become more frequent and there is more vitriol attached,” said Kohne. “All because of a simple question: can we ask you to put on a mask?” Can we offer you a mask?
The company’s booths at Atwater Village and Studio City are likely to close for about a week, while the Kohne team is developing a strategy on how to handle what appears to be simmering and festering anger around the wearing of masks, a- he declared.
One option is to have someone on patrol in front to greet customers and ask them to put on their masks before heading to the stand.
Hugo workers who have offered masks to their customers have faced a flood of stubborn but similar responses, Kohne said, “You can’t tell me what to do. You cannot infringe on my personal freedoms. ”
Some customers laughed or ignored the request. Others asked for a refund or shouted in the face of the cashiers.
Face covers, while verifiable way to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, have turned into symbol of political identity during the pandemic. Republicans – including President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence – refuse to wear masks even if public health officials insist. Their supporters followed suit.
Kohne said that Hugo’s mask policy was not a matter of policy.
“This is not a tribal choice you are asked to make,” said Kohne. “You are just asked to take care of the people around you.”