DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Ask many people in the restaurant business what the past eight months have been like, and they’ll tell you it’s been a wild ride.
Michael Levy, General Manager of Desperados, his family’s Mexican restaurants in Garland and Dallas, put it this way: “If you’re going to be a bullrider, and they open that gate, and tell you to hold on for that eight seconds, that bull is knocking all over and that’s what it’s been like.”
Levy said he’s been preparing for a reduced occupancy for indoor dining.
On Wednesday, Dec. 2, the number of people being treated for Covid-19 in North Texas hospitals exceeded 15% of the region’s total hospital capacity for the sixth straight day.
Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services shows it’s 15.77% as of Wednesday with 2,527 people being treated for the virus in the region’s hospitals.
If this continues for a seventh consecutive day, businesses such as restaurants, would have to reduce their 75% occupancy to 50%.
Levy says it wouldn’t have much of an impact on his restaurants. “You still have to keep tables six feet apart, so for us, it only meant we could actually bring in a couple more tables and maybe one or two more bar stools. So scaling back to 50%, we’re not too concerned about it.”
The Texas Restaurant Association agrees and in a statement, the group said it supports the Governor’s system of managing capacity: “…Providing restaurants/small businesses with a statewide standard is fair, consistent, and provides public enforcement with easy to follow rules…”
If hospitalizations remain high after seven days straight, bars would have to close.
But one industry group says the rule may have a minimal effect on those establishments.
Because the state has allowed bars to operate as restaurants if they have 51% of their sales as food, they would not have to close – and can drop to 50% occupancy just like traditional restaurants.
Michael Klein, President of the Texas Bar & Nightclub Alliance, says his group strongly recommended bars make the change. “Our mission is to make sure that our businesses and our members survive this current economic climate, and it just does not make sense not to transition over to be a restaurant.”
Klein praised the TABC for working with bars.
But some county judges, including Clay Jenkins in Dallas County and Glen Whitley in Tarrant County, have criticized the state for doing so claiming it has caused a spread of the virus.
The U.S. Coronavirus Task Force recommended that Texas increase physical distancing through “significant reduction in capacity in public and private indoor spaces.
Governor Greg Abbott has said he will not enact any more shutdowns and is sticking with the mechanism he already put into place.
Klein said bars have been unfairly targeted and that 40% of their members have either not reopened yet or shut their doors for good.
“This has been devastating on the men and women who are both, you know, owners or managers, employees.”
As for Michael Levy, he said they haven’t lost a single employee and haven’t missed giving them a single paycheck. “We are taking it one taco at a time.”
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