Apopka restaurant owner no longer requiring employees, customers to wear masks

Decision comes after governor’s executive order suspended all COVID-19 restrictions

An Apopka restaurant owner is no longer requiring staff or customers to wear masks inside his businesses following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order suspending all COVID-19 restrictions put in place by local governments.

APOPKA, Fla. – An Apopka restaurant owner is no longer requiring staff or customers to wear masks inside his businesses following Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order suspending all COVID-19 restrictions put in place by local governments.

Ed Conlan owns Beef O’Brady’s, Backroom Steakhouse, and Native Health and Juice Bar in Apopka.

Earlier this week he announced customers don’t have to wear masks inside his restaurants. He also lifted mask requirements for employees on Wednesday.

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“Our employees always worn a mask up until this point where today we decided to repeal the decision for the employees to wear a mask while in the dining room,” Conlan said. “We still have a couple employees that feel more comfortable with that and that’s fine, but the majority of employees are glad not to have to wear a mask.”

Conlan said he decided to ditch the face coverings after DeSantis issued an executive order Monday suspending COVID-19 emergency orders across the state.

The restaurant owner said customers don’t have to wear masks either. He adds employees and guests can still choose to wear a face-covering if they want to.

“We understand individual responsibilities and decisions are what they’re all about,” Conlan said.

Conlan said he made this decision for his employees.

“It’s very difficult to wear a mask 6 to 8 hours a day while you run around the restaurant trying to take orders,” he said.

Joseph Otero is a regular customer at Beef O’Brady’s. He said he feels safe dining inside the restaurant, adding lifting mask requirements is a sign of life returning to normal.

“I think it’s about time and I think times are ahead that we all will not be wearing masks and the economy is getting better and things are getting better for the people,” Otero said.

Conlan said about a quarter of his 40 employees are vaccinated. He said he also started an incentive program to encourage them to get the shot.

“My belief is all employees and guests have had ample time to get vaccinated if they want to do so. It’s up to them to protect themselves as they see best fit,” Conlan said.

Conlan said he’s aware of some businesses following his lead, as well as some businesses choosing to keep mask requirements in place. Some businesses in the same shopping plaza where his restaurants are located have signs posted asking people to wear masks inside.

Conlan said they’re still sanitizing tables and doing what they can to stay safe, but adds he’s now letting customers and staff make their own decisions when it comes to masks.

“Some guests may not feel comfortable coming in because we don’t wear masks and that’s totally their decision and I respect that and understand that, but for the most part we’re getting great feedback on not requiring masks,” he said.

Conlan said they’re still offering curbside pickup and to-go orders if people aren’t comfortable dining inside the restaurants. He adds servers will wear a face covering if customers ask them to.


About the Author:

Amanda Castro, a proud UCF alum, joined the News 6 team in November 2015 and was promoted to weekend morning anchor in April 2016. Go Knights!