The Dairy Queen in Medford has stopped in-house dining after...

The Dairy Queen in Medford has stopped in-house dining after customer anger at a new mask requirement. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

A Medford Dairy Queen shut its dining room Monday night, keeping only drive-thru service open, to protect its staff after a handful of customers turned belligerent while objecting to Gov. Kathy Hochul's new mask requirement, a restaurant co-owner said.

Though afternoon customers complied with the new requirement without problems, toward the evening, "We had a succession of our customers who were just awful; they were verbally abusive to our team about their rights and about the fact they shouldn't have to wear masks," said Michelle Robey, 52, of Center Moriches, one of two sisters who own the restaurant.

The outbursts occurred even though the restaurant offered masks to anyone who lacked one. Even workers handling the drive-thru have had to cope with angry customers, Robey said.

"Some people are great; some people are just absolutely awful," she added.

A Dairy Queen corporate spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

Gov. Kathy Hochul instituted a mask or vaccine requirement for all indoor public spaces, beginning Monday and effective through Jan. 15, to counter an increase in COVID-19 cases and rising hospitalizations across New York State.

A series of signs designed by Robey and her sister, Patricia Demint 50, also of Center Moriches, progress from outlining the new requirement to explaining the closing because "unfortunately, a few bad apples spoil it for everyone," and stressing their own obligation to protect their workers.

In the third and last sign, the sisters urge their customers to respect their employees, highlighting their youth.

"They are teenagers. They are someone's child. They could be your child. Do NOT be rude to them."

After all, Robey said, her employees worked through the pandemic when many others were able to stay home.

A Centereach McDonald's has had a smoother transition to the governor's new mask obligation with its customers.

"They all follow the new mandatory (rule)," manager Bianca Salcedo, 23, said Wednesday. "I mean some of the customers don't have a mask ... so we just give it to the customer and they take it."

On Tuesday night, six protesters were arrested at a Cheesecake Factory in Queens after "a large group" asked to be seated but refused to show proof of vaccination or leave, the NYPD said.

"Officers gave several lawful orders to the group to leave the location, which they refused," police said.

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