Dine-in service can resume at 25% occupancy starting May 1, according to eased restrictions approved by Gov. Greg Abbott on April 27. The order states that all tables must be spaced six feet apart and can include no more than six people.
Don Bouvier, co-owner of Shady’s Burgers and Brewhaha and The Fifth Fireside + Patio, immediately got to work Tuesday staging his restaurants in a way that meets the restrictions.
Bouvier estimates that Shady’s and The FIfth will be able to accommodate 30-40 customers at a time without exceeding the allowable occupancy.
“The table spacing is going to be just as much as a limiting factor as anything,” he said.
Following the ban on dine-in service, staffing at Shady’s and The Fifth was cut by 70%, Bouvier said. And while many staffers are eager to return to work, others may choose to wait until unemployment benefits run out.
“For some [unemployment insurance] is more than what they were making before,” he said.
Other restaurant owners believe the decision to resume dine-in service is premature and could lead to a spike in new cases of the coronavirus.
“We don’t know what [that decision] is going to cost,” said Cindy Molina, who runs Dos Charros Richardson alongside her mother. “If it continues to spread through the community, we will end up back to where we were at before.”
Molina and her mother have chosen to keep the Dos Charros dining room closed due to concerns about the health and safety of customers and employees, she said.
“We feel like we are the guinea pigs to find out if this virus will spread or go down,” Molina said. “We are not ready for people to come in.”
The 25% occupancy limit is not enough to sustain the operational costs that come with running a restaurant, Molina said. Customers who order takeout or delivery from Dos Charros may be hesitant to patronize the restaurant if they know more people are present on-site, she added.
“We actually feel like we might lose more opening at 25% than staying the way we are,” she said.
The number of people willing to visit a public place will probably be limited at first, Bouvier said. Older people and those with high-risk health conditions will likely choose to stay home, he said, which will ease the burden on restaurants.
“I think you’re going to see a certain demographic come back and another portion that’s going to take the ‘wait and see’ approach,” he said.
Jay Stine, who co-owns Pineda’s Mexican Restaurant, said the limited occupancy rule will allow for only 12 customers at a time in his restaurant. He plans to keep his robust take-out and delivery options going to supplement the small number of dine-in patrons Pineda’s will be allowed to serve.
“Being able to have 12 diners at a time isn’t going to pay our bills,” he said.
Pineda’s is beginning to take reservations for the weekend and will encourage customers to spend no more than a half hour at their table, Stine said.
“If there is no table demand, we will let people sit here as long as they want,” he said. “We hope people understand that we want to get people in and out.”