Johnson County restaurant owner refuses to follow COVID-19 restrictions, including mask order

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MISSION, Kan. — While some people are adjusting to new COVID-19 restrictions, a restaurant owner in Johnson County, Kansas, said he won’t be.

“I think at a time when our liberty is attacked as it is being, there comes a time where a man has to draw a line in the sand,” Barry Cowden, owner of Don Chilito’s said.

If you walk into Don Chilito’s in Mission, you might not notice there’s a mask mandate in the county.

“So from the get-go I basically told my employees you have the option,” Cowden said.

Since the start of the pandemic, Cowden said he hasn’t required his employees or customers to wear masks. Instead, he said the restaurant is taking extra precautions in cleaning.

“What I see in the numbers, since we’ve been wearing masks, the numbers are up,” Cowden said. “The masks are doing nothing for it. If you look around the world, the cases are going up and up and up.”

The news was alarming to some customers eating inside.

“The cases in Johnson County right now are rising, and this is ridiculous,” customer Shayla Rogers said.

District Attorney Steve Howe said right now all his office could do is file a civil action toward a business for not following the rules but that would only lead to a $100 fine.

He said this issue is being addressed at the Board of County Commissioners meeting Thursday.

“So what the county is envisioning is using their codes enforcement and then bringing people to codes court to sanction people for refusing to comply to those orders,” Howe said.

If the county does start to enforce some consequences, Cowden said he might close his doors.

“I’ll make that decision because basically this is what I tell people, it sounds funny, but I’m not making much money now with what’s going on,” Cowden said.

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