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  • Writer's pictureRic Armstrong


Many people are trying to decide what they'll do next Wednesday when the state's mask mandate gets lifted.

Some leaders and health professionals across the city said it's still too soon, and one bar owner said lifting the order puts an unfair pressure on local businesses.

National businesses have already taken a stance in Texas, saying they will continue their corporate policy of requiring a mask for employees and customers.

The owner of Marquis II, a longtime staple in West University, said he's frustrated because making a decision one way or the other could have big implications.

Al Jara said he wants to stay safe and he wants to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, he said he needs customers.

Like many other small local businesses, Jara relies on a loyal community of patrons. He said keeping everyone satisfied is hard enough, and now he feels like he has to make a decision on safety protocols that have unfortunately turned into a political stance.

"I don't believe the onus should be on small business, especially in the hospitality industry," said Jara. "Over the last year, we've been hurt the most, and requiring us now to take a side on the mask isn't right in my opinion."

Five days away from the mask mandate ending, Jara said he'd been carefully weighing how to keep his business open safely.

Mayor Sylvester Turner also addressed rumors of a mask-off party planned for next Wednesday.

"I know I've seen some flyers about the mask off parties. I don't even get it," said Turner.

Local leaders are looking into a promotion from Concrete Cowboy, a bar on Washington Avenue.

Turner will be joined by State Rep. Ann Johnson Sunday in a press conference calling for the event to be cancelled.

"Let's make sure we get the vaccines in people's arms before we open the gates and start acting as if everything is fine when everything is not fine," said Turner.

After struggling for the past year, losing money every month, to watch a different bar try to exploit the end of a health policy, Jara calls it irresponsible.

"There's no need to try to actively gather people. More than likely I'll give my customers the choice, but I'm not going to promote coming in here and having a huge gathering. I think that's incredibly irresponsible," Jara said. SOURCE:


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