Knoxville steakhouse receives backlash after no-mask social media post

Owners and workers have received backlash for the post.
Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 9:10 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - In February, Casen’s Steakhouse opened to the public, right before the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

After weeks of stellar sales, the locally owned restaurant said it is now struggling to get by.

“COVID has, in my opinion, once again destroyed this company. I’ve done my part and in this community, I’ve had an excessive amount of people reach out about the no masks and that benefits us,” said co-owner Justin Wathen.

In a Facebook post that has since been removed, the restaurant announced that customers were not required to wear a mask.

“Our post was meant to let people know you can wear or not wear one, we’re not going to force you,” said Wathen.

The timing of that post was coincidental, according to Wathen, because at that time, County Commissioner Justin Biggs and Public Health Director Dr. Martha Buchanan were set to meet for a public discussion on how the county is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had no clue they were coming here, I didn’t even know. They were coming here, and then I had something inside of me telling me to go ahead post it online, and then it became a battle,” said Wathen.

According to Wathen, the original post was removed by Facebook for violation of community standards, but a shorter version is now in its place.

Casen’s Steakhouse - Come get some delicious food with no masks on! Come see some smiling faces again!

Posted by Casen’s Steakhouse on Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Wathen doesn’t take back what he said in the now removed post. But he says he stands by every word and wishes people would understand where he is coming from.

“People telling us that we have blood on our hands, emailing us wishing harm on our family, stupid crap like that it’s unnecessary,” said Wathen.

WVLT did reach out to the Knox County Health Department in regards to the business not requiring customers to wear facemasks when not eating or drinking, which is a violation of the Knox Board of Health’s, mandate. The response the department gave is it will not cite the business and has provided education on some of the appropriate measures that need to be taken.

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