The pandemic is far from over. But the country is starting to open up. A number of states and cities are easing restrictions. San Francisco reopened indoor dining Wednesday. Massachusetts lifted capacity limits in restaurants this week. And Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is doing away with all restrictions — masks, social distancing and capacity limits — next week.
Now that businesses in Texas can reopen, are they ready, willing and able?
It’s a mixed bag.
Trey Strange owns the Silver Bullet, a bar and grill in Lubbock. Come next Wednesday, “there’s no mask mandate. I’m not socially distancing my seats or tables anymore. We’re a bar, we’re going to go back to having fun.”
Although fun may look different now. He’s not going to pack the place, not for safety reasons, but because he thinks people just aren’t used to crowded spaces or standing at the bar anymore.
Still, Strange feels like this is the end and that he’s made it through the pandemic. “Yesterday was Texas Independence Day,” he said. Abbott “basically gave us our freedoms back.”
Then there’s Alba Huerta, who owns Julep, a cocktail bar in Houston that has teetered between opening and closing. She said even if she wanted to get back to normal, it’s just not possible, especially after Texas’ recent winter storm and electricity blackouts.
“The property is a 100-year-old building. We lost thousands of dollars in food. There’s a lot of things we need to do to prepare to be open to the public,” she said.
Some businesses plan to keep restrictions in place.
For Jimmy Sweeney at the Grand Berry Theater, a small, independent cinema in Fort Worth, that means mask mandates and social distancing. But he’s worried that enforcing these rules will become more difficult and that COVID-19 infections will rise and scare customers away.
“This really feels like somebody came through and broke our kneecaps near the end of a marathon,” Sweeney said. “We started to see things really turn around over the last few weeks. This feels like it adds some sort of limbo even if we try to enforce our restrictions ourselves.”
Business owners in Texas are facing a bit of a Wild West. And now it’s up to them, and their customers, to decide how they’re going to live in it.
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