‘We have no concern’: Texas restaurants can open at 100% capacity

HOUSTON – The Texas Restaurant Association is calling the governor’s executive order to reopen the state a light at the end of the tunnel for the restaurant industry.

Since the pandemic began, about 11,000 restaurants shuttered across the state and 2,000 in Houston, according to the local chapter of the restaurant association.

“Any opportunity to get more people into the restaurants is increased revenue, more opportunity for some of these restaurants that are holding on. It will give them another day,” said the president of the Greater Houston chapter of the Restaurant Association, Cameron James. “We were already held to an incredibly high standard as far as health and safety. We have no concern that we will be able to continue that at 100%.”

On Tuesday, from a restaurant in Lubbock, Gov. Greg Abbott announced that all Texas businesses can open at 100% capacity beginning March 10. He cited an abundance of PPE, more access to COVID testing, antibody treatments and the vaccine roll out as why the time to do it is now.

“This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott said. “Every business that wants to be open, should be open.”

Houston restaurant owner, Tracy Vaught, who owns Backstreet Café, Hugo’s Caracol and Xochi has lost more than $15 million in sales since the pandemic began, but she says she is hesitant about just jumping back to full capacity.

“I don’t want to lose ground,” Vaught said. “I want to make sure that the new variants don’t take hold.”

She also explains that she had to lay off hundreds of employees during the pandemic and right now she does not have the staff.

“We would have to hire people to go to 100% capacity and even with that we couldn’t open for lunches in most of our restaurants because people are still not in their offices and that’s the best source of customers for us,” she said.

In his executive order, Gov. Abbott included a way for local leaders to take control if there is a rise in COVID hospitalizations.

“If COVID hospitalizations, in any of the 22 Hospital regions in Texas, rise above 15% of the hospital bed capacity in their region for seven straight days, then a county judge in that region may use COVID mitigation strategy with mitigation strategies in their county,” he said.

Abbott explained that a business is not mandated to reopen at 100%, but now it is the restaurant owner’s choice.