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I understand that restaurants need not follow the government mandated mask policy for their private place. But here a patron is willing or has opted to wear a mask. Can a restaurant deny service for wearing masks?

Here is the link to the story, which quotes an employee at the bar:

“Our manager sent me over because I’m nicer than he is. And yes, this is political.”

This can be extended for wearing religious garbs to not allow some patrons.

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    Since you tagged this with Texas, be advised that there's legal dispute in the state between the governor and some localities etc. All that makes it very difficult to answer this law Q until that's settled in courts etc. See texastribune.org/2021/08/27/texas-mask-mandates-greg-abbott
    – Fizz
    Sep 20 at 21:18
  • Note that the news story quoted the reason for the ban of the mask to be political
    – Trish
    Sep 20 at 21:54
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    Can you clarify what you mean by "restaurants need not follow the government mandated mask policy for their private place". Which government (federal/state/local) are you talking about? And what "mandated mask policy"? Biden's? Abbott's?
    – Fizz
    Sep 20 at 23:08
  • NB: The linked article is from yahoo news. This is a temporary link. The original, more permanent link is: independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/…
    – Rick Smith
    Sep 21 at 2:25
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Yes as wearing (or not wearing) a mask is not a protected trait so there is nothing protecting a patron from being removed. While you make reference to religious garb a mask is not religious garb and should not be compared to that.

https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/restaurants-right-to-refuse-service.html

While there are a few exceptions under some state laws, the answer is usually no. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly prohibits restaurants from refusing service to patrons based on race, color, religion, or national origin. In other words, restaurants do not have a constitutional right to refuse service. However, this law does not protect those from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

This means restaurants can prevent gay people from entering their restaurant and it is not against federal law. There are up to about 20 states, including New York and California, that have enacted that prohibit discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation. However, it gets even more complicated when factoring in local city ordinances within states that allow certain discrimination laws.

Listed below there several legal reasons for a restaurant to refuse service, some of which include:

Patrons that act in a certain way that is rude or disrupting other guests
Patrons that overfill the capacity of the restaurant can lead to safety hazards
Patrons that enter the restaurant after the restaurant is closed and no longer serving food to customers
Patrons accompanied by large groups of non-customers looking to create rowdy behavior after hours
For patrons lacking adequate hygiene or cleanliness, discrimination for this purpose is acceptable because it puts the health and safety of others in the restaurant or establishment at risk
Patrons who bring their dog to your restaurant, which is a violation of local health ordinances. When this happens it is okay to tell the patron to leave because of their dog. One exception would be if the dog is a service dog and protected by the American Disabilities Act.
Patrons looking to enter a private establishment that requires a certain dress code for etiquette purposes

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  • In other words what I am gathering is that besides The Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly prohibits restaurants from refusing service to patrons based on race, color, religion, or national origin. this, a restaurant owner can remove anybody from their restaurant.
    – Up-In-Air
    Sep 20 at 21:03
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    @joeW however, Sexual orientation discrimination was ruled to be Sex discrimination (at least for employment) in Bosctock v Clayton County
    – Trish
    Sep 20 at 21:50
  • And what if the restaurant's wish contravenes a local or state ordnance/regulation, etc., such as a mask mandate? I mean it could be legal for them eject all masked customers, but if a mask mandate is legally in effect, then they could not accept any unmasked customers without risk being fined or even forced to close.
    – Fizz
    Sep 20 at 22:03
  • @Fizz If there is a mask mandate and a restaurant is going as far as removing someone for wearing a mask it means they are also violating the mask mandate itself and are facing more serious issues. I think it would be untested grounds on removing people for wearing masks when there is a requirement to wear masks.
    – Joe W
    Sep 21 at 1:05
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    @JoeW I don't see why the restaurant policy would cause any legal clash there, both 'rules' can exist at the same time. The restaurant can mandate that nobody is inside with a mask on at the same time as the state mandates that everyone must wear a mask in a restaurant setting - the result is that no person is legally permitted inside the restaurant at all. As you say, if the restaurant owners/staff are not wearing masks while inside, that's a conflict with the state mandate and would be handled as any other case.
    – Kayndarr
    Sep 21 at 1:29
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Under US federal law, specifically the The Civil Rights Act of 1964, a restaurant or other place of public accommodation may no refuse service because of sex, race, national origin, or religion. Relatively recently, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been held to be sex discrimination. These are the protected classes.

Under the ADA discrimination on the basis of a disability is unlawful, and reasonable access to disabled people must generally be provided. Some states have passed anti-discrimination laws that add additional protected classes in those states.

In general, a restaurant ore other business is free to refuse service to people on grounds other than membership in a protected class. (Note that things closely associated with a protected class will generally be protected. For example, forbidding crosses or burkas will generally be treated ass discrimination by religion. Forbidding an "afro" hair style might be treated as race discrimination.)

A business could, for example, refuse to serve left-handed red-headed people. or people carrying books of poetry. This would probably be ill-advised, but legal, unless and until these are added to the list of protected classes.

The question says:

I understand that restaurants need not follow the government mandated mask policy for their private place.

Depending on just what the OP means this may be a mistake. Some mandates require a business not to admit an unmasked person (or did, I am not sure if any such are still in effect). Such a mandate, if issued with valid authority, would be binding on a restaurant.

Some states have recently passed laws forbidding businesses from requiring masks. I believe these are still under litigation, but if they hold up a restaurant would be forbidden to refuse service to an unmasked person in those states.

I do not know of any US states that have forbidden businesses to refuse service to a masked person. In the absence of any such law, it would be lawful to refuse service to a person wearing a mask, to the best of my understanding.

If a current law, regulation or order requires bushiness to enforce masking on all customers, then the issue could not really come up, because a business that is on;y willing to serve unmasked people could not operate in compliance with such a regulation.

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  • Technically you're correct on the last para, but since some localities had mask mandates, a business that only wants to serve unmasked customers in such circumstances has no choice but to (temporarily) close, i.e. accept no customers, while such mandates are in effect, unless they're willing to pay the fines, risk being de-licensed/forcibly closed etc.
    – Fizz
    Sep 20 at 22:49
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    @ Fizz. That depends on he exact wording of a mask "mandate". Some carry no penalties and so re not really mandates. Some penalize individuals but not businesses. Some require certain businesses .to accept fewer customers at once, Some require businesses (or certain types) not to admit unmasked customers. Only the last typle would be relevant to this question, an the question really assumes a situation in whih both masked and unmasked customers may lawfully be admitted to a business. Sep 20 at 22:56
  • I have added a paragrapoh at the end in response to the comment by @Fizz Sep 20 at 23:02
  • Frankly I'm not sure what the OP means by "restaurants need not follow the government mandated mask policy for their private place".
    – Fizz
    Sep 20 at 23:03
  • @Fizz, depending on what the OP means, and whcih mandate is refereed to, the OP may be mistaken Some mandates require a business not to admit n unmasked person (or did, Iam not sure if any such are still in effect). Such a mandate, if issued with valid authority, would be binding on a restaurant. Sep 20 at 23:06

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