Off the Menu: Restaurant Closes Dining Room After Face-Mask Backlash

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One local restaurant is eliminating dining in, not due to the coronavirus but because of the backlash the service staff received for policing face-covering rules.

The menu at Goodonya, a popular Encinitas restaurant, is all about organic and healthy foods that are supposed to boost your immune system, but that has not made staff members immune to the blowback for enforcing the county health code on indoor dining.

"It’s just a confrontation when someone is hungry so imagine that right," owner Kris Buchanan said.

Buchanan needed a break, so she closed the restaurant, gave staffers a few days off and headed to Park City, Utah. She did take NBC7’s virtual call, though.

"It is usually that 5%, that fringe that is kind of freaking out," Buchanan said. "They're yelling combative threats and making you just feel bad. We've had tears multiple days.”

The county health order requires restaurant visitors to wear masks upon entry and keep them on while walking around the dining area. Staffers are left with the burden of enforcement.

"I can't breathe," Encinitas visitor Tanya Otero said. "I feel like I'm wearing a gag. I think the way to fight this is like any flu."

Otero doesn't like it but wears a bandana for the sake of others, she said.

"If somebody is scared, I don't want to freak them out," Otero said. "That's why I wear a mask."

A woman who wished only to be identified as Nicole complained that she was "mask-shamed" in a retail store when her face covering was below her chin.

"It shouldn't be up to someone to yell across the store," Nicole said. "Nobody should be policing someone else. It's not their job."

Buchanan agrees, saying the county issued an order that breeds conflict with customers at a time when businesses are just trying to recover.

"It is absolutely ridiculous that a business would have to be enforcing this right now,” Buchanan said.

Goodonya reopens Friday morning, but only for takeout. The dining room will be closed. Buchanan is hoping to expand outside into the parking area to avoid further face-covering conflicts.

Last Sunday, a "Goodonya" server discovered she had coronavirus. Buchanan said the worker is on the mend. The rest of the employees were tested Monday and Tuesday. So far, no others are showing signs of the infection.

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