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North Texas Restaurants Ordered To Reduce Capacity, As COVID-19 Hospitalizations Climb

sidewalk sign showing restaurant is open for take out.
Allison V. Smith
/
For KERA News

Under Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order, local restaurants must reduce indoor capacity from 75 to 50%. But many restaurants were already operating at or below that number.

As COVID-19 hospitalizations rise in North Texas, the region now meets Gov. Greg Abbott’s threshold for rolling back business capacity. Nonessential businesses including restaurants, gyms and retail stores must reduce their indoor capacity, from 75 to 50%. Bars that mostly serve alcohol must close.

The new restrictions won’t make a dramatic difference for many restaurants, said Joe Monastero with the Texas Restaurant Association.

“For the most part because of social distancing restrictions and some of the other reopening protocols, most restaurants have not been able to get much above beyond 50% capacity as it is,” he said. “So the dial back to 50% capacity is not a significant change for most restaurants.”

At The Bearded Lady, a popular gastropub in Fort Worth, it was physically impossible to operate at 75% capacity indoors while maintaining the required safety protocols.

“With our inside space, we haven’t been able to go over 50% because of the way that we’re laid out,” said Amanda Yunger, who works at the restaurant. “We’ve got different tables that are movable but our booths are not,” which means they can’t be spread six feet apart.

Yunger said her business is fortunate to have a large patio for outdoor dining, which isn’t affected by the new restrictions. Still, she knows other restaurant owners who are worried about staying afloat.

Under Gov. Abbott’s executive order, nonessential businesses must reduce capacity when more than 15% of patients at area hospitals are being treated for COVID-19 for seven days straight.

Monastero said the clear guidelines gave restaurant owners time to prepare, as they watched hospitalization numbers climb.

“It wasn’t like all of a sudden we woke up...to a different scenario than we were expecting,” he said. “We’ve had seven days to prepare, to know that this was coming and to be able to then react accordingly.”

He said the real challenge for many restaurants isn’t the latest restriction, but the fact that fewer people are ordering from restaurants, whether through dine-in or takeout.

That, combined with limited relief from the federal government, has put many restaurants in a difficult position.

“We’ve had a nine month pandemic and maybe six to eight weeks at most of federal relief for some of these businesses, so they’re struggling to survive and need every ounce of support from their customers that they can get,” he said.

Mallory Falk is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Got a tip? Email Mallory at mfalk@kera.org. You can follow Mallory on Twitter @MalloryFalk.

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