The Dearborn Heights location of southeast Michigan restaurant group Mexican Fiesta has halted its dine-in service after several instances where customers treated employees “rudely” when told to wear a mask inside the restaurant. In a statement shared to Facebook and the restaurant’s website on Sunday, the Mexican Fiesta’s management wrote that they would be continuing to only offer carryout for the time being:
Amigos, it is with a heavy heart we inform you that on June 29th we will be closing our dine in service and returning to only carry out service. Unfortunately, there were multiple situations where our staff was disrespected and treated rudely. The safety of our customers and staff is our number one priority so we have made the tough decision of closing our doors to the general public until further notice. Moving forward we will be strictly carry out and will keep you posted regarding our dining service. Stay safe amigos and please remember we’re all in this together.
Sam Alvarado, grandson of the founders of the 58-year-old restaurant group and manager of the Dearborn Heights location, tells Eater that family made the call to close for dine-in service after encountering multiple people over the past few weeks who responded poorly to being told to wear a mask. “Some people don’t want to wear masks,” Alvarado says. “And, unfortunately, a very, very small minority of individuals out there feel frustration about it and kind of shoot the messenger.”
Alvarado says that in one incident on Saturday a customer charged the door after being told they couldn’t enter without a mask and refused to leave. Alvarado says he was involved in the altercation and felt it was necessary to call the police. “I did not feel threatened,” he says. “That is just not what we’re here to do,” he says of dealing with disgruntled, maskless customers. “We’re trying to give our guests the great Mexican food and drinks we’ve always been able to provide.”
Overall, Alvarado says that he and his family are incredibly grateful from the support they’ve continued to receive from the community during the pandemic. The decision return to carryout-only service was difficult to make. The restaurant had only been open for two weeks for dine-in service. “We’re foregoing sales, but we just thought it was necessary right now because this whole situation with the pandemic has been very difficult for us to weather. Thank god we’re paying the bills, but it’s been very challenging. So to also be subjected to [rudeness] — even if it’s one run-in during the course of a shift — that’s a lot to deal with.” Alvarado points out that it’s also a problem when other customers sit down to dinner and overhear vulgar language and aggression from other patrons. “That’s not why people come out to eat and drink.”
Mexican Fiesta in Canton will also be continuing carryout service while Hartland will still allow dine-in customers. Alvarado says the family hopes to reevaluate its strategy and reopen for dine-in service at the metro Detroit locations sometime after Independence Day — possibly with additional staff at the door.
Many restaurant owners and workers in the Detroit area have recently spoken out about conflicts with patrons who ignore social distancing rules and face mask requirements; customers sometimes become angry when asked to comply with the state-mandated rules. All Michigan restaurants and bars are currently allowed to open at 50 percent of their total capacity with six feet of social distance between groups. Patrons must also where a mask when entering a restaurant or bar and when not seated at a table.
Reports of newly belligerent customers are coming at the same time as states in some cases are pausing and rolling back their reopenings due to new surges in COVID-19 cases. The Centers for Disease Control, state and local health officials, and business owners developed social distancing and mask guidelines for restaurants and bars in order to allow the economy to partially reopen while mitigating the chances of spreading new cases.
Alvarado urged understanding from customers who are unhappy about mask requirements, noting that businesses have to comply with safety requirements at the state and county level. “Some of this stuff is completely out of our hands,” he says.
By following health guidelines, customers can do their part in limiting the spread of novel coronavirus, saving lives, and, in turn, reducing stress on the economy. Remember to wash your hands frequently, wear a mask over your nose and mouth, leave six feet of space between yourself and others, and stay home when sick.
Eater is tracking the impact of the novel coronavirus on the local food industry. Have a story to share? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.