Sign at Texas restaurant threatens a $50 fee 'If I have to explain why masks are mandatory'

One of the servers painted a woman wearing a mask on the restaurant's window. By David Williams, CNN

(CNN) -- The owners of a Denton, Texas, diner want customers to know that they are serious when they say masks are still required in their establishment.

Wayne and Kat LaCombe put up a warning sign on the door of Legends Diner on Monday -- just days after Texas lifted its mandatory mask mandate.

The sign is tongue-in-cheek, but the husband and wife team did it in the name of keeping their customers and employees safe.

"Our new surcharge," the sign reads.

"$50 - If I have to explain why masks are mandatory"

"$75 - If I have to hear why you disagree..."

Wayne LaCombe told CNN that he got the idea after seeing a similar sign online.

"I thought, 'Oh, that's funny. I'm gonna put that up because it does send a message,'" he said. "And not five minutes after I put it up customers coming in were laughing and taking pictures of it."

To drive the message home, one of their servers, an art student, painted a woman wearing a mask on the restaurant's window with a caption that said masks are respectful, not political.

Effective March 10, Gov. Greg Abbott loosened restrictions meant to stop the spread of Covid-19, including doing away with the mask requirement and allowing all businesses to reopen 100%. Abbott did so because active Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations were down to levels not seen in months.

Critics of the decision said it was too soon, citing the small percentage of number of Texans vaccinated at that time and spreading variants of the virus.

LaCombe said he and his wife have gotten their first doses of the vaccine, but many of their staff are not yet vaccinated.

The restaurant's tables are spaced out, they've cut down on capacity, employees wear masks and wash their hands between going to each table and they take everyone's temperature before they enter the building. There is also hand sanitizer at every table.

He said that two couples came in on Friday and told him that it was the first time they had eaten in a restaurant since the pandemic started.

"We feel very honored and privileged that they have chosen us," he said.

He said they've gotten a great response from their customers and some neighboring business have congratulated them for making a statement, but there has been some grumbling online.

Kat LaCombe is a retired oncology nurse with 28 years experience and has responded to some of the criticism in a post on the restaurant's Facebook page.

"All we ask is that customers wear a mask as they walk past another person that is eating and not wearing a mask," she wrote. "Sure doesn't seem like a lot to ask...but apparently it is."

The LaCombes opened their restaurant in October 2019 and had to close for two-and-a-half months because of the pandemic.

Wayne LaCombe said he's not sure the business can survive if they have to close again.

"We have a race that we have not finished, and when the numbers go up our business goes down," he said. "So yes, it's very urgent that we keep the numbers down."

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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