"Welcome back, we missed your face, but keep it covered" reads a sign for all to see before they enter Off the Wall Cafe in Park Ridge. But for some customers of the cafe and it's sister business Beer on the Wall, that mantra is apparently hard to remember.
"I've found people can get very angry when asked to cover the bottom of their face," said barista Megan Linse.
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Linse said she was there when a man and a pregnant woman confronted each other over wearing a mask inside. The man was eventually asked to leave and the woman left in tears.
"What I want to see more of is just grace from people. Just having grace to people that are serving you," Linse said.
Owner Ryan Tracy says after a rough week of threats and confrontations over mask and municipal health rules, he and his staff had enough.
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"It's the old, 'you better watch yourself,' or 'you know you better be careful tonight,' or like 'are we doing this right now bro?' And that kind of stuff," Tracy said of the confrontations.
His staff needed a mental health day, so they closed up shop for 24 hours and posted about it on Facebook to let customers know. The post went viral.
"We had so many people, so many restaurants, so many other retail businesses reach out and say they're having similar issues and seeing so much support from the city was great, and it really helped," Tracy said.
When they did reopen their doors, their regulars had their backs.
"We had several customers come in and show us momma-bear-level protection making sure that we were OK and safe, and just extreme love and generosity from our regulars," Linse said.
They say customers now are more cognizant than ever about the abuse frontline workers in the service industry can face.
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"The amount of respect I have for these people is through the roof," said customer Justin Czok.
"If they need to take time off to reset or for the well-being of their customers, I am fully in support of that," said customer Alila Hollander.