HOUSTON – Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced on Monday a sweeping closure of area bars, clubs and restaurant dining rooms in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
In a joint press conference Monday evening, the officials ordered all bars and clubs to close for at least the next fortnight. Restaurants may remain open, but are limited to drive-through, takeout and delivery services. Dine-in services are prohibited. The new measures go into effect at 8 a.m. Tuesday and will last at least 15 days.
“This is not going to be solved by any one action,” Hidalgo said in a press conference. “It will take all of us, including young people, healthy people, my fellow millennials, everyone making sure we play our part.”
Houston is the nation’s fourth large city to adopt such rules in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
The move leaves owners, waiters, bartenders and other workers on uncertain footing.
The new measures come on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day
The new measures were announced on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day.
“It’s devastating,” said Ashley Webb, the manager at Houston’s Porch Swing Pub. “We’re in support of Houston, we’re in support of Sylvester Turner’s decision. This is the best decision but it still doesn’t soften the blow.”
Webb said the pub had already been suffering.
“It has been insane,” Webb said. “The weekend is usually very busy for us, especially with St. Patrick’s Day around the corner and especially when St. Patrick’s Day is on a weekday. The entire weekend is usually busy, we’re packed. It was a beautiful weekend and our sales were, you know, under fifty percent of what we were last year.”
‘Today sucked’: Restaurant owner reels from the decision
“Nobody knows what’s happening next,” said Benjamin Berg, owner of B&B Butchers and Restaurant. “Obviously, right away, we’re going to try to find a way to survive, help out our staff and get through this.”
Berg, who owns six restaurants, employs about 400 people in the Houston-area. He opened his sixth restaurant a week ago.
“We’re going to try to keep everything and just come out stronger,” Berg said. “Today sucked. I mean, there’s no other good way to say it.”
‘It’s been a long day’: Restaurant owners brace for dine-in closures
For two Houston restaurant owners, opening a restaurant was the fulfillment of a dream. The news that they’d have to shutter their dining room Tuesday felt devastating.
“It’s been a long day, first of all,” Urban Eats co-owner Levi Rollins said. “Secondly, it’s devastating for our business financially. This is a business that we dreamed about for years, that we have invested all of our life savings in opening. We’re not a corporation. We’re two local people trying to provide great food in a cool environment to people in Houston.”
‘It sucks’: Patrons react to bar closures
After hearing the news, one bar patron made a bee-line to his favorite watering hole for one last drink before it closed for the next couple weeks.
Another patron said he was disappointed when he heard the news but wasn’t surprised.