Making Masks Mandatory, for Restaurants Sake!

What I would like people to understand is that when we, your local restaurants, are asking you to wear a mask, it’s for the safety of our staff and the livelihood of our establishment. Many restaurant workers can’t afford to have their place of employment shut down, sometimes for the second time; and many small independent restaurants won’t survive a second closure.

We at Amilinda in Milwaukee have been in favor of a mandate to wear masks in public from the start of the COVID pandemic, and although we’re currently only doing Take Out and Curb-Side, we still require our staff and customers to wear a mask whenever they enter our space.

So when we were approached by Gary Witt of the Pabst Group a few weeks back to see if we wanted to put our support behind a letter he was writing to the Mayor and the Common Council of the city requesting a mask ordinance be passed, without hesitation we said yes.

We signed the letter. We got even more vocal about the need for a mask ordinance. We spoke to the local media. We posted a lot on social media.

The author Chef Greg Leon being interviewed by FOX6 (Image courtesy Greg Leon)

Although we had a lot of support, not everyone backed us. One gentleman commented on one of our pro-mask ordinance posts, saying that he had one lung and that it was against his rights to require him to wear a mask. He also informed us that he might just pay us a visit, and if we were to refuse him serve for not wearing a face-covering he would sue us. This is the kind of selfish madness we, the small independent restaurant, are dealing with.

I’ve heard all the arguments people are throwing out as excuses to not want to wear a mask. To them I say just stop, your civil liberties are not being infringed on, just like they aren’t when you’re required to wear a seatbelt, or when you’re required to wear a shirt to enter a business.  If you’re telling me your opposition is due to a medical condition like the guy who posted on our social media feed, then I ask: Why are you even going out? If you have a serious medical condition, why are you putting yourself at risk? Is it to prove a point or to show how tough you are?

Thankfully, despite the opposition, our Mayor here in Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, signed into law a mask ordinance for indoor and outdoor public spaces. The mandate requires anyone in the city who is at least 3 years old to have a face covering when leaving home. Masks must be worn whenever you are in a building open to the public and when you are outside in a public space you are within 6 feet of any other person who is not your household or family.

The Author, Chef Greg Leon, posting the victory on FB, and getting a lot of support! (Screenshot | CulEpi)

We have been there for you, the customer, to help you celebrate your birthdays and anniversaries; your graduations and engagements. We have worked weekends so you could bring Mom in for her special day and have worked holidays so you could have that special meal with those you love. 

Now it’s time for the guest to do this one thing for us, this one simple thing that will minimize our chances of getting sick, losing our jobs and putting an end to a dream so many of us have worked very hard to achieve. We ask you to do this without complaining, without harassing our staff, and without threatening to blacklist us or damage our reputation or property.

Times are tough for us, for all restaurants. At Amilinda we’ve had to furlough three-quarters of our staff.  These are people who we consider family, people who have been with us since the start, and have helped us grow this little dream of ours. Sales are down by 80% and we are barely staying above water these days. I would think that the last thing restaurant guests and patrons would want to do at a time like this is to pile more stress onto our plate.

If you claim to love your neighborhood restaurant, if you cherish all the great times you have had dining out during the good times, if you meant you would do anything to help us through these bad times, then do the right thing. Wear a mask. Do it for your favorite server and cook, for your favorite hostess and bartender, for the chef you say you love. Do it to show you really do care about us and think of us as family.

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