Houston’s struggling restaurants preparing for ‘new normal’ with post-pandemic reopening

Restaurants struggle to survive pandemic
Restaurants struggle to survive pandemic

HOUSTON – “It’s just not easy you know, struggling the way that we are. We’ve been here for 10 years and we never thought we would be in this situation.”

Greisy Perekalski and her husband own two restaurants in Houston -- the Argentina Cafe in the Galleria and The Empanada Factory in Greenway Plaza -- and like most owners, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll.

“We are going through very hard moments as small business owners," Perekalski said. "We tried to apply for the (Paycheck Protection Program) loan, we didn’t get anything from it. We didn’t even hear back.”

Not long after the stay-at-home order was issued nearly two months ago, cash flows started drying up and many restaurants started furloughing or laying off employees.

“This is our life, this is where we feed my family from, my home, my kids, our employees. I feel so bad for a lot of them,” Perekalski said. “We’re taking it day-by-day, but there are days where we’re like ‘Wow, how are we going to pay our expenses’, you know? It’s just tough.”

A massive economic impact

Restaurants make up a large piece of the Texas economy, especially in Houston, where there are as many as 350,000 people working in the industry. According to the Texas Restaurant Association, a staggering 61% of those workers are currently out of a job. Statewide, restaurants contribute $70 billion each year, with Houston producing $15 billion of that on its own. Before the pandemic, there were more than 13,000 restaurants in the greater Houston area.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott knows how important is to get them reopened, but also knows it’s important to do it the right way.

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