Ask 2: Will restaurants still require customers, employees to wear masks?

FILE - In this Feb. 16, 2021, file photo, Scotty Davis, right, waits for his to-go order in a dark restaurant during a cold weather blackout in Richardson, Texas. Texas on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, became the biggest state to lift its mask rule, joining a growing movement by governors and other leaders across the U.S. to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials not to let down their guard yet. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File) (Lm Otero, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

At KPRC 2, we’re dedicated to keeping Houstonians informed. As part of our Ask 2 series, the newsroom will answer your questions about all things Houston.

Mask on or mask off? Well, it depends on the business.

With Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announcing this week his plan to reopen restaurants and businesses at 100% capacity and do away with the statewide mask mandate, many business owners must decide if they will continue to enforce COVID-19 safety guidelines.

Private businesses and entities have the legal right to require customers and employees to wear a mask. In fact, many Houston-area businesses have already announced that they plan to keep the COVID-19 precautions in place.

Guests and employees have no “constitutional free speech rights in a private business or workspace,” according to restaurant.org. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects an individual’s right to free speech from infringement by the government, but not a private business.

According to HPD Chief Art Acevedo, those who do not comply with the mask order or leave the business are subject to arrest for criminal trespassing. He said the department is not interested in arresting people and he urged residents to either wear a mask or take their business elsewhere.

“If you go to a business and they tell you to wear a mask, please either wear the mask or decide to take your business elsewhere. Just remember that if you remain in the business after being asked to leave, you are subject to arrest for criminal trespass,” Acevedo said.

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