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Los Angeles restaurant closes, "exhausted" by customers who won't wear masks

Mask messaging causing confusion
Mask protocols causing confusion and confrontations nationwide 02:47

Hugo's Tacos is taking a break after 15 years in business, with the operator of two taco shops in Los Angeles temporarily shutting down after growing weary of battling customers who flout a California state rule and refuse to wear face masks.

While most of its patrons are respectful, a loud, maskless minority is making life miserable for workers looking to stay safe during a pandemic, the business stated on its Instagram page. 

"Our taco stands are exhausted by the constant conflicts over guests refusing to wear masks. Staff have been harassed, called names, and had objects and liquids thrown at them," Hugo's said. "A mask isn't symbolic of anything other than our desire to keep our staff healthy."

The decision to close Hugo's came as Covid-19 cases continue to rise across the U.S., with more than 2.6 million confirmed infections and more than 126,000 deaths as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The disease is also surging in the Los Angeles area, which has recorded roughly 101,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,300 deaths.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises all Americans to wear a mask when they venture out in public to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus, the guidance has turned into a political issue for some. 

Customers threw drinks and other objects at cashiers, Hugo's Tacos CEO Bill Kohne told CNN. Some would call the mask rule "stupid" and yell at the primarily Latino staff to "Go back to where you came from," he relayed.

"It's a mistake to think of this problem as defined by red or blue," Kohne told CNN, noting that both his taco stands reside in liberal communities within Los Angeles.  "We're shades of grey. It's general defiance, a 'you can't tell me what to do' and 'this is my personal choice,'" he told the news outlet.

U.S. coronavirus deaths projected to hit 180,000 by October 12:16

People lashing out in public in expressing opposition to masks is a not infrequent occurrence lately, as Hugo's Tacos can attest. Other incidents include a San Diego woman trying to publicly shame a Starbucks worker for suggesting she wear a mask.

It's mandatory to wear a mask when coming within six feet of others across California, with the statewide rule exempting those with specific medical conditions that make it too hard to wear a mask.

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