After Contracting COVID-19, San Antonio Bar Manager Wants Strict Enforcement on Mask Rules

click image North Side bar manager Brad Vehrs' friends and family have launched a GoFundMe campaign to help with over $35,000 in medical bills. - GOFUNDME / BRAD VEHRS

  • GoFundMe / Brad Vehrs
  • North Side bar manager Brad Vehrs’ friends and family have launched a GoFundMe campaign to help with over $35,000 in medical bills.

North Side bar manager Brad Vehrs was one of thousands of local hospitality-industry employees eager to get back to work after weeks idle.

Now, after contracting COVID-19 since Texas’ statewide reopening, he’s worried not enough is being done to keep wage-earners safe. He and his coworkers followed CDC precautions, wore masks and gloves, but that doesn’t do much good when customers won’t do the same.

“I’m thinking we all need to hire door guys who will take temperatures, escort people to their tables and monitor distancing and mask wearing,” Vehrs told the Current. “I think there are a lot of people who are against that idea, who think they should be able to choose whether or not to wear a mask, get sick if they want. … But I agree with the new order and that the bars who aren’t following the rules should be [fined].”

The new order Vehrs is referring to was the one handed down this week by County Judge Nelson Wolff requiring businesses to make customers and employees wear face coverings or risk a $1,000 fine.

Before he got sick, Vehrs said he tried to operate his Northside bar under social distancing mandates as best he could, but “not at 100%.” He declined to name the establishment where he worked, citing concern for his coworkers.

“Before the new mask order was announced, it was kind of like a free-for-all,” he said. “People were going out to socialize and party, and there was no real way to guarantee that contact would be minimal, especially since not everyone was wearing masks.”

Since bars were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity earlier this month, at least a dozen in San Antonio closed again as reports of employees testing positive for the virus poured in. Vehrs told the Current he’s in constant communication with at least two dozen others in the industry who have tested positive.

As is the case with many foodservice industry workers, Vehrs doesn’t have health insurance. Admittance to a Northside emergency room, a trip in a specially-outfitted COVID ambulance and five days in a downtown hospital have put him on the hook for $35,000 in medical bills.

“I don’t make anywhere near what I’m used to making on unemployment,” he told the Current. “But when I go back to work, I won’t serve a person that’s not wearing a mask. I will straight up refuse service.”

Vehrs plans to return to work — and enforce a no-mask, no-service policy at the bar he manages — sometime in July.

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