Texas Restaurants Prepare to Reopen, Watch Georgia’s Post-Coronavirus Practices

Texan Governor Greg Abbott has issued a statewide order allowing restaurants to reopen starting Friday. Restaurateurs must limit occupancy to no greater than 25% of their building’s listed capacity. Abbott’s order follows Georgian Governor Brian Kemp’s order to reopen dining rooms yesterday.

As Texans prepare to resume dining room service, they are carefully studying what is occurring in Georgia. Governor Kemp infuriated many infectious disease specialists around the nation and even President Trump chastised him for moving too soon. “I never gave Governor Brian Kemp an OK on those few businesses outside of the Guidelines,” tweeted President Trump. He reiterated his view the day after Kemp’s order, “I was NOT happy with the Georgia Governor on Tuesday night.”

Texans Watch Georgia’s Reopening Day

Nevertheless, a few brave restaurant owners from Atlanta to Savannah opened their doors yesterday for the first time since the lockdown began. Although the majority of restaurant owners have not reopened, here are some of the highlights during the last 24 hours from Georgia’s trailblazers.

Smokey Bones opened three of its locations in Georgia yesterday, and saw surprisingly large turnouts. Staff spaced tables apart and removed shared condiments from tables to lower the risk of cross-contamination. Employees wore masks and gloves. Whenever the restaurant reached capacity, hosts asked guests to wait in their cars before being called to tables.

Cherokee Brewing and Pizza posted a sign on its door before it opened yesterday, “Thanks for being the greatest customers on the planet and please don’t laugh at the face shields – we know we look goofy.” Servers wore surgical masks and plastic face visors. The chain restaurant hopes to reemploy most of its 75 furloughed workers.

Chris Heithaus manages dozens of Waffle House restaurants in Georgia. He has closed booths to keep customers apart, his employees are wearing masks, and staff have replaced Waffle House’s iconic plastic placemats with disposable paper menus. A Waffle House corporate spokesperson confirmed that most of Georgia’s 400 locations reopened yesterday.

Customers were anxious yet optimistic to return. “I got an email from a restaurant in Smyrna Georgia telling me that had reopened for dining Monday. Big Daddy’s Burger Bar. I go there every once in a while. I’ll check it out,” said one Georgia resident. Another customer had less luck, “Called a handful of my faves and none actually reopened.” Some residents from neighboring states even drove in to celebrate the reopening, “So excited to travel to Georgia on Thursday!  Barber shop, restaurant, and gym here I come!”

Which Rules Apply to Restaurants in Texas

As Texans prepare restaurants on Friday morning for the return of regulars (and even some out-of-state adventurers), Governor Abbott’s order clarifies state rules for reopening dining rooms.

  • Dining room occupancy must be limited to 25% of the listed building capacity.
  • Hand sanitizer must be provided for free.
  • No tables may exceed six diners.
  • Valet services are prohibited, except for disabled patrons.
  • Parties must maintain at least six feet of distance apart from other parties, including while waiting to be seated.
  • Food establishments which generate over 50% of gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages, such as bars and lounges, are not permitted to reopen at this time.
  • Staff must follow Texas Department of State Health Services‘  minimum standard health protocols recommended, and should implement social distancing, practice good hygiene, and surface sanitation practices.
  • Texas’ protocol for restaurants is available as a PDF here.

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

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