Businesses react to first day without mask mandate

With the removal of the Texas mask mandate Wednesday, some people are throwing no-mask parties, despite the Houston mayor’s advice not to do so.

Federal American Grill on Shepherd Drive in Houston is the scene of one of those parties.

Joseph Trahan, founder of Bizpac, organized the "mask off champagne toast." He says he’s expecting about 70 people to celebrate the end of the mask mandate beginning at 5:30 Wednesday evening.

The owner of Federal American Grill Matt Brice told FOX 26 he was not involved in planning the "mask off" party and did not initially know that is what the group would be celebrating. He did say people without masks are now welcome at the restaurant.

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FOX 26 visited several businesses in Spring as well to see how they’re reacting to the mandate changes.

"I’ll change up the sign," said Puffabelly’s Restaurant manager Joseph Mirelez.

FOX 26 filmed him taking down the sign requiring masks at the entry to the restaurant the same day Governor Abbott’s mask mandate expired.

Mirelez says the staff still prefers people to wear masks, but if someone walks in without a mask, they’ll still be welcome. The staff will continue to wear masks, he said.

"We sit them," said Mirelez. "We’re just gonna sit them. We need the money, and if they don’t want to wear one, we can’t force them. The mandate has been lifted."

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The governor’s order also allows restaurants and all other businesses to return to full capacity, but convincing more people to dine out again is another story.

"We’re still not at 100% due to people not wanting to go out," said Mirelez. "To-go orders—Door Dash, GrubHub—those have been helping us out tremendously."

At Sam’s Antiques in Spring, the owner Sam Rodwan says he never complied with the mask mandate and never required masks at his store, although he is an advocate for social distancing.

"Every year for the last 10 years, I’ve been sick like maybe two to three times minimum—get a cold every year," said Rodwan. "I’ve never had a flu shot in my life, and this is the first time I’ve never been sick because I’m away from places like movie theaters."

And at Wunsche Bros. Cafe and Saloon, maskless visitors are now welcome.

"We’ve allowed our guests to come in without a mask if they prefer, but everybody who works here still has to wear a mask," said server Tara Bailey.

Most businesses are staying pretty low-key about their mask policies, but one business in Pearland was very vocal about it.

The owner of Good Vibes Burgers & Brews Eric Nelson lost his job in the shutdown last year. So this year he’s opened his own restaurant and let all media know he won’t be requiring masks for his staff or customers.