A Denton diner that made headlines for its strict and humorous mask mandate will soon close its doors for good.
It is just one of the thousands of restaurants in the state that are shutting down during the pandemic.
Much like the 50s style memorabilia now for sale, Legends Diner will soon be history less than two years after opening.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit a few months after opening.
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“We’re really at a disadvantage here,” said owner Wayne Lacombe. “We have to stop the bleeding.”
According to the Texas Restaurant Association, approximately 9,000 of 50,000 restaurants have closed so far in the pandemic.
The association said anxiety continues to grip the industry with the fast-spreading delta variant.
Lacombe said cautious customers have been staying home more often.
“It’s just unfortunate. The COVID numbers have gotten in a situation again that we just can’t handle,” he said.
There’s another reason Lacombe and his wife blame for the decision to close.
A 2019 construction project along Elm Street the city said will be completed later in 2021.
“That was really kind of stressful with the construction. We never knew when it was going to be done,” he said.
A city spokesperson tells NBC 5 the construction is part of the Pecan Creek Tributary Drainage Improvement project to reduce flooding downtown.
‘Our goal is to ensure construction has as little impact on local businesses as possible, including ensuring that access to properties in the area have never been interrupted,’ said city spokesperson Ryan Adams in a statement. ‘Our project manager and other staff have been in regular contact with business and property owners affected by the project since construction began and make sure to keep them connected to the project manager for any questions or concerns that spring up.’
Adams said the project has faced a shortage of materials and short weather-related delays but has not been delayed overall.
Legends has lost about $200,000 since 2020, said Lacombe.
What is not quite clear is whether a viral moment impacted business.
The diner also drew national attention last March for its posted mask requirement.
A pink sign posted on the door jokingly warned argumentative anti-maskers they would be charged $50 if the owner has to explain their mask mandate and $75 if the owner has to listen to their argument.
“When we put the sign up, it was done in humor,” said Lacombe. “But we wanted to make sure we got our word across that we were serious about this. Kat is a retired registered nurse, so we want to make sure that everybody is safe.”
Lacombe said no one was ever charged the extra fee. Masks are still required.
The closure has led to an outpouring of support on the diner’s Facebook page, but it has also led some people to suggest the small business owners are getting what they deserve for their staunch views on masking.
“It’s kind of hard to have respect for people that don’t feel the pain you’re feeling, so it is what it is,” he said.
Legends is opting to focus on their loyal customers, grateful for their business and support.
The Texas Restaurant Association said hiring in the industry is ramping back up, but owners are still struggling to turn a profit because of high commodity prices and reduced operating hours.
The association said the federal Restaurant Revitalization Fund was underfunded, leaving over 12,000 eligible restaurants without relief.
‘We continue to call upon Congress to finish the job and fully fund the RRF so every eligible restaurant has a fair chance to rebuild,’ said the association in a statement.
Legends Diner will close at 3 p.m. on August 29. According to The Dallas Morning News, the restaurant will open on Aug. 30 and 31 to sell memorabilia off the walls, but the kitchen will remain closed.