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Texas bar owner refuses to allow customers to wear masks

Liberty Tree Tavern is telling patrons "no masks allowed" in contrast to many bars and restaurants requiring or recommending masks during the pandemic.
/ Source: TODAY

You'll be asked to leave this Texas bar if you do wear a mask.

The owners of Liberty Tree Tavern in Elgin have decided to do the opposite of the many bars and restaurants across the country recommending or requiring patrons to wear masks as they reopen during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kevin Smith, co-owner of Liberty Tree Tavern in Elgin, Texas, says customers are not allowed to wear masks in his bar. TODAY

"Due to our concern for our customers, if they FEEL (not think) that they need to wear a mask, they should stay at home until they FEEL that it’s safe to be in public without one," a sign on the front window of the bar reads. "Sorry, No Mask Allowed."

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Liberty Tree Tavern co-owner Kevin Smith told NBC affiliate KXAN that he feels he's already taking enough precautions with social distancing and occupancy limits that he doesn't want customers wearing masks.

"It's more of a push back — the snitches and the contact tracers out there,'' Smith said. "This is still a rural county."

Liberty Tree Tavern has a sign in front that says, "Sorry, no masks allowed." TODAY

The city of about 10,000 people has 53 recorded coronavirus cases and one death, according the Austin American-Statesman, a Texas newspaper.

Charles Chamberlain, a regular patron at the bar, told the outlet that he's fine with the no-mask policy, even as a stage 4 cancer and H1N1 virus survivor, which puts him at high risk for severe complications from the coronavirus.

"You should have a choice of what you want to do," he said. "If I get it, I get it. If I do, I’ll deal with that. You can’t live forever."

Liberty Tree Tavern's decision to ban masks comes as restaurant and bar owners across the country work to determine what changes they will institute to prevent the spread of the virus while also making patrons feel comfortable.

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Country star John Rich, owner of Redneck Riviera bar and restaurant in Nashville, Tennessee, is requiring employees to wear masks, but not customers.

"I think that personal responsibility is a big thing right now," Rich told Craig Melvin on TODAY earlier this month. "I’ve seen certain governments around our country, I think, overreach with people. I think you got to treat us like adults."

"We’re all very well aware that this virus is deadly," he continued. "This virus is nasty and that you don’t want to transmit it, and so a lot of our customers are actually wearing masks when they come in. We also have masks on hand if they don’t have one and offer them one."