With Orange County coronavirus infections increasing, even as businesses and restaurants operate with varying levels of compliance to pandemic guidelines, residents are becoming vigilant about where they will and won’t spend their hard-earned cash.
So when the Huntington Beach restaurant Basilico’s Pasta e Vino took to social media to proclaim its anti-mask sentiment using the hashtag #nomasksallowed, controversy ensued among diners who pledged never to patronize the establishment again and those who supported the viewpoint.
An image posted recently on the restaurant’s Facebook page portrays illustrated mask wearers with big red lines drawn through them, along with #nomasksallowed and #securitymatters. Another image, the Gadsden flag with its signature “Don’t Tread on Me” superimposed over an American flag, was posted to the page on Monday.
The posts have inspired hundreds of angry and supportive comments from a deeply divided populace along with a groundswell of media attention, according to Basilico’s Operations Manager Jonathan Millikan, who was compiling a media contacts list as he greeted guests Tuesday.
Millikan said he had no comment about the postings or whether customers were being asked to remove their masks before entering Basilico’s. The manager did say restaurant owners were seeking help from “spokespeople,” who would be contacting news outlets sometime in the next few days.
“We’ve decided we’re going to reach out to everyone. We may end up holding a conference — that’s kind of our plan,” Millikan said.
Angry commenters are also going to the user-review website Yelp.com to share arguments they’ve had with the owners, who Millikan acknowledged sometimes use his social media accounts when corresponding with the public.
Some of the posted conversations have since been removed, while in others, the owners explain how they initially posted a “no masks” sign outside the restaurant weeks earlier in response to demonstrations against racial inequality and police brutality that took place in and around Huntington Beach.
“If you enter the restaurant for dine in and want to wear a mask, you must remove it when sitting down,” one June 27 comment explained. “If you are standing around inside and waiting for a table … and you are wearing a mask, you will be asked to wait outside. Got it? And next time you have something to say, why don’t you come by and tell us to our face, in person?”
On Tuesday, Yelp said the business “is being monitored by Yelp’s support team for content related to media reports.” A trendline of Basilico’s online reviews showed a steep decrease in performance from May to June.
Huntington Beach spokeswoman Catherine Jun said she was unable to comment on whether the issue had been brought to the city’s attention but would not say why.
Jun did say the Huntington Beach Police Department, which is responsible for conducting “educational outreach to non-compliant businesses,” had been made aware of the situation.
Cardine writes for Times Community News.