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Restaurant plans to reopen dine-in services Friday, despite Harris County stay-at-home orders

HEDWIG VILLAGE – While the poster boards taped to the front windows of the restaurant thanked customers for their support during the coronavirus pandemic, beginning Friday, new posters will outline measures to keep diners safe.

Following weeks of carry-out only, Federal American Grill will begin to offer a dine-in option for customers on Katy Freeway in Hedwig Village. Owner Matt Brice said he has decided to reject the Harris County's stay-at-home order, initially signed in mid-March.

"We're opening," said owner Matt Brice. "You know, I'm not trying to break any laws. I'm not trying to ruffle any feathers."

Brice said this decision was an economical one.

"It's a tough decision because we were at 100% compliance because first and foremost for the safety of America and the safety of the people of the city," Brice said. "We are doing our best and our due diligence to be sanitary and make sure that we stay home."

But weeks of exclusively curbside to-go orders are beginning to show signs of wear to the bottom line, Brice said.

"We have to be able to open as soon as possible, and there have been no hard dates," he said. "The stay-at-home order was put in, and we did, and we complied and thought that this would be open a lot sooner than it is."

Brice said he has the support of Hedwig Village, including the mayor.

KPRC 2 reached out to Mayor Brian Muecke by phone. He would not speak directly to whether he supports Brice, but pointed to the proclamation of emergency regulations, which went into effect Thursday.

The recent order acknowledges area businesses, those that wish to reopen, temporarily, under Governor Abbott's disaster order.

While Mayor Muecke does not say yay or nay, per se, however, he acknowledged the proclamation guided restaurants to operate on-site dining.

The proclamation requires restaurants that choose to reopen their dining rooms to "post outside their entrance the specific manner by which they are implementing the Guidelines from the President and the CDC, as instructed by the Governor, so their dine-in customers' desire for risk mitigation."

Brice said safety is key. He outlined the precautions he and his staff plan to take.

"From hand sanitizing to... I'm going to have a bathroom attendant standing outside our two bathroom doors, allowing one person at a time to use them."

"Thirty percent of the restaurant only being seated at all times, so we will not go over that capacity — that's my promise to everybody. That gives way more than enough room."

Brice also said tables will not have salt and pepper shakers, cutlery will be disposable, and customers will have the option of hands-free payment.

"We're doing all these necessary measures to keep people safe. Social distancing," Brice said.

But disagreeing with an order declared by an elected official is one thing, resisting it is another.

Brice said it all comes down to fairness, which businesses were considered "essential" and which were not under County Judge Hidalgo's order.

"They cannot pick and choose who wins and who loses, and that is what they're doing to small businesses right now," Brice said.

Still, Brice said he would comply with orders to cease dine-in options if enforced.

A spokesperson for Harris County Judge Hidalgo declined to comment.