The hospitality industry has been put through the ringer because of COVID-19.
As has the rest of the world, but I’m not sure any other industry has been pushed and pulled around as much as the hospitality crowd.
The decision on how restaurants and bars should — or shouldn’t — operate during this time has been based on keeping people safe and slowing the spread of the new coronavirus. This is understandable, and many small business owners agreed with closing the dine-in services for restaurants and closing bars completely in mid-March. Once Texas began to reopen in May, some restaurants even decided to patiently wait a little longer as a precaution.
Last Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott began rolling back his reopening of businesses in Texas. Per the executive order he signed, bars are limited to to-go sales and restaurants have to scale back their dine-in occupancies from 75 to 50 percent.
My intention isn’t to argue whether the closures/reopenings were right or wrong, because I think either way, this is a losing game for the hospitality industry.
If a restaurant chooses to voluntarily close, it could disrupt the livelihood of the owners and staff.
If a restaurant closes its dine-in options, but keeps operating its to-go, curbside services, it still doesn’t eliminate the threat of COVID-19.
Just last week, Hughie’s, 1802 W. 18th St., announced its temporary closure because of an employee testing positive for the virus. Hughie’s dining room hasn’t been open since March.
If a restaurant reopened slowly, per the previous plan for reopening Texas, everything was fine … until it wasn’t. Many area restaurants have temporarily closed over the last few weeks because of an employee contracting COVID-19, including La Lucha and Superica, 1801 N. Shepherd Dr., Down House, 1801 Yale St. and most recently, Hando, 518 W. 11th St.
John Reed of BCK, 933 Studewood St., said he wants to do his part as a human. But as a business owner, watching the closure of bars and the scaling back of restaurants is defeating.
And while I feel there’s no winning the “war,” at least right now, I also think it’s inspiring to see the little ways restaurants and bars are winning the “battle.”
For the tiki bar Lei Low, 6412 N. Main St., the executive order signed last Friday didn’t do anything other than validate a decision the bar made in mid-June, which was to close its doors while offering to-go products.
Even with feeling like the bar had made the right decision, Russell Thoede of Lei Low said it still makes him fearful for the future of his business.
Watching restaurants not adapted for to-go and curbside be able to change their model and survive are more little battles won as well as watching the industry step up and help those who needed assistance.
And I can’t forget to mention the countless residents who have made it a point to patronize local restaurants during the last few months.
But — and there’s always a “but” somewhere — what about tomorrow? Next week? Next month?
Every available decision restaurant owners are able to make right now all have potential consequences. It’s a no-win situation that I’m beginning to believe will just have to be waited out.