"We're definitely preparing just for someone who may still not like the mask rule," said Haig Tscholakian, whose family owns Phoenicia Specialty Foods as well as a restaurant.
Tscholakian said the family grocery will still require masks, and fortunately, the response so far is overwhelmingly positive.
However, employees do have a plan in place if someone walks in without a mask.
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"We're going to ask politely, we're not going to make a scene, we're just going to ask and we'll supply you a mask," he said.
Across town at Kenny and Ziggy's Deli, there was a wait outside for lunch on Monday as the restaurant maintained a 50% capacity. Every guest also gets a temperature check before they are even allowed to go inside.
"I'm a business owner. I'm a very conservative person," said Ziggy Gruber, a well-known restaurant man in Houston with a big personality. "I don't care if you're a conservative or liberal person, this is not about either political side, it's about common sense."
How diners react to restaurants as the mask mandate is lifted could have a profound effect across Texas. According to the National Restaurant Association, there are 1.34 million restaurant and food service jobs in Texas, accounting for approximately 1 in 10 employees in the state.
The group said there are more than 48,000 eating and drinking establishments, which generated more than $66 billion in sales in 2018. The industry has been hit hard by COVID-19 and operators are trying to balance the need for business with employee safety.
Neither restaurant workers nor grocery store employees who cannot work from home are prioritized for vaccines.
"About half my employees are vaccinated," said Gruber, adding it's another reason why the masks must stay on.
Fortunately, at his restaurant, even customers who disagree said they'll abide by the rules.
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"I think it's up to the individual business," said Rob Ciara, who disdains the mask mandate. "I think it's kind of silly, but if they want to have their rules, they can certainly do that."
What local restaurant, bar and grocery operators don't want is to get into confrontations with customers.
All are in the service business and want to please their guests, but they also care about employee safety, so they are asking everyone to please be kind.
"We can all see the light at the end of the tunnel. We can all see vaccines rolling out. We can all hope this is coming sooner or later," said Tscholakian. "Be mindful of each other and customers and staff, and this is the right thing to do."
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