Two customers spat in the drink of an employee and attempted to steal food after being told to wear a mask indoors, according to the team behind the vegan Detroit-style pizzeria Boxcar Pizza.
According to an Instagram post on the Boxcar Pizza page, a couple visited the restaurant, located in the Zipper food hall, on April 8 and refused to wear masks. Employees told the customers that they could wait outside and staff would bring them their pizza when it was ready, but that they could not wait inside the store for their pizza without a mask. Boxcar’s post alleges that the couple called the Boxcar staff “Nazis” and accused them of “discrimination.” The post also alleges that the couple tried to go behind the counter to take prepared pizzas, and spat in an employee’s drink during the attempt to steal food. Police arrived later that evening, and the customers left the restaurant. The post does not name the couple.
Boxcar claims that the couple threatened to return on Friday, April 9, so the team decided to close the restaurant for the evening. “The whole ordeal was violent and honestly traumatizing for everyone,” the post reads. The vegan grilled cheese cart Ditto commented on the post, saying the “same people have come to Ditto as well and are a total scary nightmare, super aggressive.”
Odie O’Connor, the owner of Boxcar Pizza, says the couple arrived with two small children, and that they threatened to sue the restaurant for not allowing them to dine without masks. O’Connor has decided to build a walk-up window into the doorway of the restaurant, to prevent anything like this happening again. “There are already so many things you have to deal with in the industry,” he says. “It was really scary; you now understand what people are capable of.”
In Oregon, both restaurant workers and customers are expected to wear masks or face coverings at all times, excluding when customers are actively eating or drinking. In July, Gov. Kate Brown told reporters in a press conference that she was “calling upon our businesses to step up and help ensure that the public and their employees are protected,” as opposed to enforcing the mandate with police force. “As with all of my orders, I do not want local police issuing tickets,” she said at the time. “Our law enforcement have a number of things to do, ensuring people are safe is one of them. We’re not asking businesses to call the police.”
Unfortunately, response to mask-wearing protocols have been violent in other parts of the country. A person shot a Waffle House employee in Colorado after he told the shooter he had to wear a mask. In Houston, protesters targeted a restaurant for its mask mandate. Restaurants have temporarily closed out frustration and potential safety risk regarding these encounters, and other workers are experiencing constant fear over a confrontation turning violent.
“I never thought that this is what would happen; this kind of stuff doesn’t happen in Portland,” O’Connor says. “Restaurants should have an idea of a plan for things like this. I didn’t have a plan for employees, what to do when this sort of thing happens. That’s on me.”
• Boxcar Pizza [Instagram]
• Gov. Kate Brown Says Restaurant Workers Are Expected to Enforce Oregon’s Mask-Wearing Mandate [EPDX]
• Restaurant Employees Become the Unexpected Enforcers of Mask Policies [ED]