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LA taco stands close down after workers who asked customers to wear masks suffered racial slurs

A well-known LA Taco chain has been forced to close after its employees repeatedly experienced harassment when asking customers to wear a mask.

Hugo’s Tacos, which has two popular taco stands located in Atwater Village and Studio City were forced to close on Sunday.

The company said workers, many of whom are Latino, had been targeted with racial slurs and had food and water thrown at them during the pandemic.

 A statement from the company read: ‘Our Taco Stands are exhausted by the constant conflicts over guests refusing to wear masks. Staff have been harassed, called names, and had objects and liquids thrown at them.

‘A mask isn’t symbolic of anything other than our desire to keep our staff healthy.

Hugo's Tacos (pictured) which has two popular taco stands located in Atwater Village and Studio City were forced to close on Sunday

Hugo’s Tacos (pictured) which has two popular taco stands located in Atwater Village and Studio City were forced to close on Sunday

‘Both of our locations are going to take a break and recharge. We’ve loved serving you the last 15 years and hope the LA community comes together on this issue so we can feel safe and reopen soon. Please stay tuned here and on social media @hugostacos for reopening updates.

‘Thank you to the majority of our guests who are always respectful and kind.’

Speaking to BuzzFeed, CEO Bill Kohne said the abuse had ‘taken a toll’ on the business.

Mr Kohne said harassment had ‘gotten a lot more extreme’ in the last four to five weeks although staff had been experiencing it throughout the pandemic. 

He said: ‘One of our employees wearing a mask was imploring people to behave and to follow that one simple rule; she was one of the employees who had water thrown at her.’

Mr Kohne said that wearing a mask had become ‘political statement’ and urged customers not to turn it into a symbol of something it is not – instead just wearing them to be ‘responsible for each other’.  

The company said racial slurs, food and water had been thrown at their workers during the pandemic, many of whom are Latino

The company said racial slurs, food and water had been thrown at their workers during the pandemic, many of whom are Latino

Hugo’s Tacos, who have small locations around 400 square feet, have made an effort to incorporate social distancing into their business.

The company has taken to offering customers a mask if they do not have one, however they say this is not always warmly received despite it being mandatory to wear a mask in public in the state of California.

Kohne said the company has set up a GoFundMe to help cover worker’s wages during this time – they have so far raised $35,600 of their $50,000 target.

People wearing facemasks walk past a health and safety guideline board and an open restaurant on Santa Monica Pier, June 26, 2020 in Santa Monica, California

People wearing facemasks walk past a health and safety guideline board and an open restaurant on Santa Monica Pier, June 26, 2020 in Santa Monica, California

A Big Dean's employee checks customers temperature before letting them in the bar and restaurant amid the coronavirus pandemic in Santa Monica, California

A Big Dean’s employee checks customers temperature before letting them in the bar and restaurant amid the coronavirus pandemic in Santa Monica, California

The taco stands are considering hiring full time security to protect workers from the increasing abuse – until it is safe for employees to work they will remain closed. 

A description on the giving site reads: ‘By staying at work, Hugo’s Tacos employees were not only providing an essential service in the early days of Covid-19 but also just trying to feed their own families.

‘Now that Hugo’s Tacos has closed, we are asking for your support. These funds will be evenly distributed among the workers at both locations to make up for lost wages and hard times due to the closure. A reopening date has not been set.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all bars to close immediately in seven counties across the state - including Los Angeles - citing a rapid spread of coronavirus in the last week

California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all bars to close immediately in seven counties across the state – including Los Angeles – citing a rapid spread of coronavirus in the last week

‘We greatly appreciate any help and encourage you to spread the word about wearing masks in order to keep EVERYONE safe!’  

On Sunday afternoon California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered all bars to close immediately in seven counties across the state – including Los Angeles – citing a rapid spread of coronavirus in the last few weeks.

Newsom’s decision to roll-back reopening efforts, which began just under a month ago, comes two days after Republican governors in Texas and Florida ordered similar closures in an attempt to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The decision was announced by the governor’s state public health director, Dr. Sonia Angell, just two weeks after bars were permitted to reopen in California on June 12.

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