Local restaurants, businesses in Sugar Land and Missouri City struggle as new limiting regulations interrupt regular operations

Heaven on Earth wedding and event venue in Missouri City has had to postpone 22 weddings as gatherings have been limited to no more than 10 people. (Beth Marshall/Community Impact Newspaper)
Heaven on Earth wedding and event venue in Missouri City has had to postpone 22 weddings as gatherings have been limited to no more than 10 people. (Beth Marshall/Community Impact Newspaper)

Heaven on Earth wedding and event venue in Missouri City has had to postpone 22 weddings as gatherings have been limited to no more than 10 people. (Beth Marshall/Community Impact Newspaper)

The local business community in Sugar Land and Missouri City is feeling the negative effects of county- and state-mandated closures of businesses and dining rooms intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

Tom Abraham, co-owner of Texas Biergarten in Missouri City, said the eatery saw a decrease of about 60% in sales from March 13 to March 19. Abraham also said he feels Gov. Greg Abbott took too long to declare this issue a statewide emergency.

“Those funds are critical for small businesses like us to be freed up so that we're even able to apply for federal aid through the [Small Business Association],” he said in a March 19 interview. “There is no way that half of the restaurants in just our locale are going to survive without some sort of funding or leniency on either lease, rent, utility bills, etc. And we still have to pay our employees. I think it's imperative that people know this could have been prevented. I mean, we started seeing a decline in sales a week ago.”

Abraham said one way the restaurant is staying in business during this time is because of family-style meal sales and to-go beer sales. Texas Biergarten has also stopped using delivery apps, like DoorDash, and instead, employees are delivering meals so they can keep working.

“I don't know how other restaurants are doing it if they're solely relying on walk-in business or online ordering,” Abraham said. “I don't see how they're going to survive this.”

A relatively new restaurant in Sugar Land, Toast Breakfast Brunch and Lunch, has also seen a steep decrease in sales during this time, co-owner Tam Hoang said during a March 19 interview.

The mandated regulations decreased business by about 75%, Hoang said. On March 18, the restaurant had only about 10 to-go orders.

“This has been pretty bad,” Hoang said. “It’s not just the restaurant itself or the restaurant owners. It trickles down to the employees and even to the landlord. If we can’t make rent, they can’t make rent as well. I never thought something like this could happen.”

Toast is offering 10% off for any curbside phone orders and free delivery within a 5-mile radius for purchases of $40 or more, Hoang said. This will be offered as long as these restrictions are in place, he said.

“It’s really sad that it’s come to this point,” Hoang said. “Not having people get to dine in with us, our business has dropped significantly. I try to stay positive, but the reality is it’s going to hurt us and all the mom-and-pop shops out there. How do we come back from this?”

Especially since Toast a newer restaurant in the area, Hoang said he is worried Toast might not survive this difficult time.

“We’re scared that we can’t even stay open after this,” he said. “If we don’t get any busier with curbside pickup, I don’t know what the future has in store for us right now.”

Hoang also said he is frustrated that even with a regulation that crowds of no more than 10 should gather in public spaces, restaurants are forced to closed dining rooms, but grocery stores seem exempt to this rule.

“When you look at the grocery store, there's hundreds of people in there, and I get that, you know, you still have to buy groceries and stuff, but they’re not limiting them for people inside,” Hoang said. “For restaurants, we're just a small business, and they're not doing anything to help us out.”

A local wedding and event venue in Missouri City, Heaven on Earth, is also feeling the drawback of the 10-person gathering limit in effect.

Venue owner Tamara Vogt said as of March 19 she has already had to postpone 22 weddings.

“I have every nationality, you know—Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish—all religious orders, and with that being said, guests and family members are coming from all over the world,” Vogt said.

What has been hard on Vogt as a business owner is rescheduling so many weddings, she said. Weddings needing to be rescheduled have priority for remaining dates in 2020, leaving no more availability the rest of the year.

“They are picking dates in July, August, September through December, which has left no new availability for this year for me to even sell new packages,” Vogt said. “Now, I really don't have any open dates until 2021, and who's really going to come and give a retainer fee for 2021 with the uncertainty of all of this currently going on in 2020? And we're barely into 2020.”

Despite the hardship on the couples anticipating their weddings and Vogt as a business owner, Vogt said the couples can still get married on their original wedding date in a smaller ceremony while still having the option to reschedule for later this year.

“We are still marrying them if they want to get married [on their original date] at Heaven on Earth. The plus is, not too many girls get to wear their same dress twice,” Vogt said, adding that such a perspective is an attempt to find a silver lining during this time. “I’m paying out of pocket. We're not charging them. I'm ordering them each a little wedding cake—a bride cake and a groom's cake. And they are going to still do their first dances and cut their cake and do a champagne toast.”
By Beth Marshall
Born and raised in Montgomery County, Beth Marshall graduated from The University of Texas at San Antonio in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in business. Originally hired as a reporter for The Woodlands edition in 2016, she became editor of the Sugar Land/Missouri City edition in October 2017.


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