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Washington Avenue Bar’s Plans for ‘Mask Off’ Party Draw Ire From Houston Officials

Plus, HEB will require customers to wear masks after all and more Space City dining intel

a bar full of people not wearing masks and crowded together before the pandemic
A pre-pandemic party at Concrete Cowboy
Concrete Cowboy/Facebook

Welcome to AM Intel in the time of coronavirus, a round-up of the city’s newest bits of restaurant-related intel. Follow Eater on Facebook and Twitter for up-to-date details on how COVID-19 is impacting the city’s dining scene.

Houston leaders condemn Washington Avenue bar for planning “Mask Off” party

A group of Houston leaders, including Mayor Sylvester Turner and State Representative Ann Johnson, have criticized a Houston bar for planning a massive “mask off” party to celebrate the end of statewide COVID-19 mitigation measures. The move comes just days after Houston became the first major city to report cases of the new, more contagious, strains of COVID-19.

The bar, Concrete Cowboy, has been promoting the event for Wednesday, March 10. That’s the day Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide masking order, as well as occupancy limits on bars and restaurants, are set to expire. It’s not the first time the bar’s antic shave caught the attention of state officials. According to the Chronicle, the bar had its liquor license suspended twice during the last year for failing to observe social distancing guidelines.

H-E-B will require masks for customers after all

Popular grocery chain H-E-B has reversed course, saying it will ask shoppers to wear masks while inside the store. The chain announced the reversal after backlash from Texans who want to see private businesses protect their customers and employees. During his announcement last week, Gov. Greg Abbott said that even though the statewide mask order would end on March 10, private businesses still have the right to require mask usage on their premisses. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo also released a statement saying that anyone who refuses to comply with a private business’s mask rules could be arrested for trespassing.

H-E-B president Scott McClelland told KHOU 11 that H-E-B workers will ask customers to wear masks, and if a customer refuses, the store will not escalate the interaction.

Antone’s Po-Boys creates banh mi honoring Dr. Peter Hotez

Houston-based po’boy chain Antone’s has launched its latest H-Town Originals sandwich, this time a banh mi inspired by bowtie-clad doctor and vaccine advocate Dr. Peter Hotez. The sandwich, which consists of thinly sliced marinated beef on French bread topped with pickled carrots, cucumber, daikon radish, and papaya, was created with the help of Dr Hotez in the kitchen of Antone’s Medical Center location. The sandwich costs about $9, and will be available through May. Fifty percent of sales of the sandwich will go towards to Texas Children’s Hospital’s Center for Vaccine Development.

Dr. Hotez has become a familiar face to Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. As co-director of Center for Vaccine Development and Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Hotez has appeared on dozens of national news programs as a leading voice in vaccine development and COVID-19 treatment.