Texas to reopen restaurants at 25% capacity

The state’s governor announced Monday that dining rooms can partially reopen on Friday.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday announced that restaurant dining rooms there will be allowed to reopen Friday at 25% capacity—superseding any local orders in his state.

Abbott's order also keeps in place the regulatory waivers that allow restaurants to sell alcohol to-go. 

The reopening will come the day after the state’s shelter-in-place order, which has been in place since mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus, lapses.

"Even as restaurants are allowed to reopen beginning May 1, we continue to emphasize that no restaurant should reopen its dining spaces until it is ready to do so," the Texas Restaurant Association said in a statement. "Texas restaurants are experts in safety, sanitation and customer satisfaction, and we know that these values will continue to drive their decision making."

Along with restaurants, retail stores, movie theaters and malls will also be allowed to open Friday at 25% capacity, Abbott said at a press conference. Museums and libraries will reopen as well, but interactive exhibits must stay closed.

Diners flocked to the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb of Colleyville last weekend after the mayor there reopened patios for dining. Many servers wore masks, tables were spaced more than 6 feet apart and diners were urged to use their phones as menus, according to local media reports.

The Rio Mambo restaurant in Colleyville opened Friday to three-hour waits for one of its 17 outdoor tables, chain President Brent Johnson told the Fox Business news channel.

Colleyville Mayor Richard Newton issued a proclamation last week that allowed restaurants in the North Texas town to reopen their outdoor dining areas on Friday. Places were required to maintain social distancing, and employees work masks to lessen their chances of spreading coronavirus.

Rio Mambo could fit only 17 tables into its exterior dining area when the tables were spaced more than 6 feet apart, Johnson told Stuart Varney of Fox. When a crowd materialized, seated patrons were asked to limit their table times to 90 minutes.

Bars, gyms, hair salons and other businesses are not allowed to open under the current mandate, but Abbott said he hopes they can open no later than mid-May.

Texas is a vast state, with more than 1.3 million people employed in its foodservice industry, according to the Texas Restaurant Association.

Texas joins other states that are slowly allowing restaurant dining rooms to reopen, although there is widespread confusion about the best operating practices to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Last week, Georgia became the first state to announce it would reopen dining rooms, with restaurants getting the OK to restart dine-in operations today.

Since then, Alaska, Tennessee and Oklahoma have OK’d the resumption of dine-in service.

Peter Romeo contributed to this report. 

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