Houston restaurant owner said people threatened to call ICE for keeping mask policy

For one Houston restaurant, keeping its mask policy the same led to what the owner calls racist backlash. Starting Wednesday, the state’s mask mandate will be lifted. 

Pico’s Authentic Mexican Restaurant in Upper Kirby is a family-owned business. Like many other businesses, they’ve decided to keep their mask policy. But the owner says when they made the announcement, some people threatened to call ICE and immigration authorities if they didn’t change it.

On what should’ve been a day of celebrating 37 years in the community, Pico’s owner Arnaldo Richards was dealing with ignorant Internet trolls instead. It began last week when the family-owned business made the decision to keep requiring masks inside the restaurant, despite the governor’s lifted mandate.  

"It was somebody saying if you impose this, the government will send ICE or send immigration to take your green cards. I mean that’s totally racist because that would not have happened at a steakhouse or Italian restaurant. Even if you go to any kitchen, everyone is Latina behind the scenes. It comes from a place of ignorance," said Richards. 

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Ironically — Arnaldo Richards is a first generation Mexican-American. He was born in Mexico but became a naturalized citizen nearly 40 years ago. 

Richards says his Pico’s employees are like family; some having worked with him for more than 30 years. Because not all of them have gotten vaccinated, Richards plans on keeping all previous COVID-safety protocols in place. 

"To me, the right choice is to protect my employees and to protect my customers. I mean in my case, in a restaurant, it’s no big deal because you put it on, you walk inside. It takes you 30-40 seconds to get to the table then you take it off so you can dine with your people," Richards said. 

Richards said he’s thankful and appreciative of the people who stood up for him and his restaurant online. He said the threatening posts have mostly been taken down because of the backlash they received in return. 

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Cantina Barba in the Heights reportedly received similar threats involving ICE. 

Richards said his daughter is good friends with the owners there.

"We were exchanging notes and said, 'What is happening? Why Latino restaurants? It's just racist," Richards said.