‘Exhausted’ by conflicts over guests refusing to wear masks, a popular taco spot in Los Angeles temporarily closed its doors

But about a month ago, the comments turned into screams.

Customers at the popular Los Angeles location threw drinks and other items at ATMs, Hugo Tacos CEO told CNN. They called Hugo’s Taco Stand’s mask rule “stupid” and yelled at mainly Latino staff to “go back to where they came from.”

One of the owners tracked the number of attacks last Thursday and realized it was one attack per hour. On Sunday, after realizing this, Hugo’s Tacos announced that it will temporarily close its two locations in Los Angeles.

“Our taco stands are exhausted by constant conflict over guests refusing to wear masks,” wrote Hugo’s Tacos in an Instagram post. “A mask symbolizes nothing more than our desire to keep our staff healthy. Both locations will take a break and recharge.”

The move was unprecedented for the institution, which has operated for 15 years.

But the decision comes as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the United States, with more than 2.5 million coronavirus cases nationwide and at least 125,928 deaths as of Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Amid the pandemic, the act of wearing a mask to protect others has become a political and cultural hot spot.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone “wear a cloth face covering when they have to go out in public” to reduce transmission and delay the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. But some argue that the act of wearing a mask is political, and that wearing one infringes on your civil liberties.

Hugo Tacos CEO Bill Kohne called the attacks on his employees “a challenge to the schoolyard” and one that is “party agnostic,” noting that their two posts are located in the Atwater Village and Studio neighborhoods. City, two liberal communities within Los Angeles.

“It is a mistake to think of this problem as defined in red or blue,” Kohne told CNN. “We are shades of gray. It’s a general challenge, a ‘you can’t tell me what to do’ and ‘this is my personal choice.'”

Customer challenge over mask rules is now common

Customer challenge over mask rules has become commonplace, with many posted videos of so-called “Karens” on social media reacting angrily towards mask users.
A Starbucks barista received nearly $ 80,000 in tips after being singled out for refusing to serve a customer who doesn't wear a mask

Many watched a video of a woman at Trader Joe’s in North Hollywood, California, throwing down her shopping basket after being asked to wear a mask, according to CNN affiliate ABC7.

The woman, who declined to give journalists her name, says she had a “respiratory problem” and her doctor told her that she was unable to wear a mask. The alleged respiratory problem did not prevent the woman from shouting obscenities at the masked employees of grocery stores.

The woman said she called a different Trader Joe’s store and that the manager gave her permission to come in and buy without covering her face, ABC7 reported. But she alleges she mistakenly went to the North Hollywood location, where the manager told her that she could buy groceries without a mask just that day.

“I did what any normal human being, a woman, would do if a man harassed her, not knowing if he is a crazy man, so I started screaming in self-defense,” she told reporters, ABC7 reported.

More recently, a Starbucks barista in San Diego who was publicly embarrassed by a client after asking him to wear a face mask received nearly $ 80,000 in virtual advice after a Facebook post criticizing him went viral.

California has a state face-covering rule that requires people to wear a mask anywhere they are within six feet of others. People with medical conditions who cannot wear masks are exempt from wearing a face mask.

Despite state and local regulations for wearing masks in public and scientific research showing that masks reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission, national leaders have sent mixed messages.

President Donald Trump has refused to explicitly recommend Americans to wear masks and has generally not worn one in public appearances.

In an interview that aired Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said people must follow local mask rules, saying “each state has a unique situation.”

But Kohne said he believes it is wrong to link the mask challenge to the partisan challenge.

Hugo’s Taco Stands, which has followed the City of Los Angeles guidance on masks for months, described fulfilling the mask request as “always cloudy.”

The anger is through demographics, he said.

“As much as the Karens are a problem, the Kevins are just as bad,” he said. “While it is generally white people who consider it racist, the belief that masks are a hoax is general.”

Attacks affect employees

Kohne said the attacks have had a cumulative effect on his workers who already struggle with the security of going to work.

While Hugo orders how to make its employees financially complete during the shutdown, the company created a GoFundMe for its employees after the community requests to establish a fundraising site.

Many commented on Hugo Tacos’ closing post, expressing their support for the institution.

“THANK YOU for putting your employer’s mental health above the dollar,” wrote one user in a comment. “Donated and will continue to support.”

“Thank you for keeping your staff safe,” wrote another. “I hope to be masked and spend some money there when it reopens.”

Kohne said her focus is on comforting and protecting her employees right now. But she is also preparing for when she will have to deal with public anger that she thinks is getting worse.

“It may be due in part to the length of confinement and the feeling that people need to get out of a cage,” he said. “It’s a feeling that’s getting worse. A feeling that ‘you can’t tell me what to do.'”

CNN’s Alaa Elassar contributed to this report.