Community backs Mission Viejo yogurt shop owner after lawsuit threat over masks
Mariana Tabla, co-owner of a Mission Viejo yogurt shop called Frapys, has become a rock star at least among people in the community who believe in wearing face coverings, which are recommended by county and state health officials.
After a video showing a controversy over masks in her shop went viral on Twitter on Wednesday, Oct. 28, Tabla said she’s gotten a huge amount of support. Locals have been coming in to buy yogurt and leave large tips. Several yogurt flavors – especially pumpkin and dulce de leche – are nearly sold out. Tabla said her business tripled in 24 hours, and some customers have even posed for photos with her.
“We are very grateful the community is responding that way,” she said Thursday. “People are calling me and thanking me for keeping the place safe. It’s really awesome.”
Tabla gained attention after her encounter on Saturday with a couple of potential customers, who walked in and accused her of discrimination because she wouldn’t let them get yogurt without face coverings. By Thursday, Tabla’s cell phone video of the incident had more than 1.5 million views.
In the viral clip, Tabla told the customers that for safety, everyone needs a face covering when inside the store near the self-serve yogurt machines and toppings.
The couple accused Tabla of discrimination, asked for her name and threatened to sue her before leaving without identifying themselves. Late Wednesday, they returned to the store with what appeared to be a legal document that they tried to get Tabla to sign, she said, and she’s heard they may have visited other area businesses.
The document, citing state law and the U.S Constitution, says it is “unlawful” for business owners or employees to ask someone to wear a mask, take anyone’s temperature or bar anyone from entering their business, and that calling the police to get a customer to leave could be considered an assault.
Tabla said she was surprised that the couple came back.
“They wanted me to sign,” the papers, she said. “I told them, ‘Please go away, or I’ll call the police.’ They continued to argue and then they finally left.”
Tabla owns the yogurt shop with two partners. She worked there for eight years before becoming a co-owner in mid-February, right before the pandemic-related business shutdowns began.
“It has been a great combination of feelings for me and my partners, we have had very difficult months, but thanks to the support of the community, fortunately, we have not had to close even once,” she said.