HOUSTON – The complaint came in through a call to 3-1-1, an information line for the City of Houston. The dining room was too crowded, said a customer at a Waffle House in southeast Houston. The complaint generated a visit from the Fire Marshal’s COVID-19 response team — Senior Investigator Rodriguez and Inspector Gomez — who entered the restaurant on a fact-finding mission. After a five-minute conversation, the pair left. There was no evidence of a capacity violation.
“The way she’s got it set up — the manager’s got it set up — it’s the way everybody should have it,” Gomez said.
Gomez and Rodriguez work for the Houston Fire Department’s Fire Marshal’s Office. They’re one of nine pairs assigned to the office’s COVID-19 response team.
Gomez explained why the restaurant did not violate the state’s occupancy order, from his inspection.
“She’s got tables roped off. Sections where people can sit. No more than four people at a table,” he said.
This is the experience for these gumshoes — not all complaints lead to violations. If they do, the task isn’t to write a citation, KPRC2 has learned.
“We try to inform and educate at the same time, so, if they’re not aware of it they can follow the mandated ordinance,” Gomez said.
The current mandated ordinance is that restaurants can fill tables up to 75% of the total occupancy.