Waco businesses evaluate mask policies as mandate lifts Wednesday

With the mask mandate being lifted on Wednesday, local businesses now face enforcing individual mask policies. Christina Cannady | Photographer

By Vivian Roach | Staff Writer

Local Waco businesses have issued their own plans about whether or not they will require masks as Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate is lifted Wednesday.

Following Abbott’s initial announcement last week, H-E-B released an article that said their mask policy will remain even after the mandate is lifted.

“At H-E-B, our top priority is protecting the health and safety of our Partners, customers and the communities we serve. While statewide policy has changed, our store protocol has not. Mask use at our stores will remain. Our signs requiring mask use will remain posted at entrances and we will continue to make announcements in store,” H-E-B said in the article. “We will continue to expect shoppers to wear masks while in our stores. Additionally, we will still require all our Partners and vendors to wear masks while at work.”

Target on Bosque Boulevard is planning to do the same.

Latonya Lewis, cashier at Walmart on Franklin Avenue, said regardless of Walmart’s policy, she is still going to wear her mask.

“I don’t feel that they found a cure. I know everyone is taking their shots, but I’ve got underlying issues, so I’m going to continue to wear mine,” Lewis said.

Lewis said Walmart is doing vaccines in the store, and they called her Sunday to get her vaccine but she missed the call. Lewis said she plans on getting a vaccine but will still wear her mask after she’s been vaccinated for safety purposes.

As for small businesses in Waco, Annissa Herrea, a cashier at Baris, said the restaurant will return to 100% capacity but continue to require masks for employees.

“Well, as far as employees, they still want us to wear the masks until the end of the month. There’ll be another decision then,” Herrea said. “This is for safety reasons for both parties, but there’s not a requirement for the customers.”

Another place frequented by Baylor students, Common Grounds, will continue to require masks for employees and customers on-campus and at the Eighth St. location.

“As of yet, there will be no change,” Tanner Watson, SUB store manager, said. “Employees will definitely be required to wear masks at all locations the whole time they’re behind the bar. Baylor obviously requires that no matter what. It’s going to be the same for customers as well on campus.

“At Eighth St. [Common Grounds], we plan on still requiring that. It’s really just for the health and safety of our employees and all of our customers,” Watson said. “But we do continue to require them until you sit down.”

Watson said the SUB location of Common Grounds will follow Baylor’s lead for future policy changes but Eighth St. will continue to reevaluate as vaccines are distributed and CDC guidelines evolve.

Local Whataburger locations and Heritage Creamery management said they will strongly urge customers to continue to wear their masks inside.

Scott Spain-Smith, general manager of Heritage Creamery, said he hopes it won’t last long, but for now they will continue to have employees wear masks. He said future changes in the situation will be taken into consideration, though.

Several other local businesses in Waco have announced their decisions on social media platforms. The following list of businesses have announced they will continue to uphold their current policies and require masks from customers: Fabled Bookshop and Cafe, Starbucks Coffee, Lighthouse Coffee and Wine, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, One Day Bar.

Some businesses, such as Barnett’s Public House and Dichotomy Coffee and Spirits, said they will determine their plan once the mandate lift takes effect.

Torchy’s Tacos and Pinewood Coffee Bar refused to comment on what their mask policy will be after Wednesday.

The City of Waco posted on Facebook Tuesday night, saying, “As State of Texas guidelines change tomorrow (3/10) regarding the wearing of masks in public spaces, the City of Waco will continue to require their use in city facilities and on city property as part of COVID-19 safety protocols.”

Protocol for private events on city property will be determined on an individual basis.