How some Austin businesses are resetting after APH Stage 3 announcement


AUSTIN (KXAN) — After Austin Public Health’s announcement Thursday that it will move the region back to Stage 3 COVID-19 risk-based guidelines, some local businesses announced changes to their operations. Here’s what customers need to know ahead of heading out to these local shops.

Back to the mask

Austin-based Waterloo Records announced Thursday, they’re requiring masks again. The company said uncertainty surrounding the delta variant and breakthrough cases were a big part of that decision — alongside APH’s stage change announcement.

John T Kunz, the owner of Waterloo Records, says if someone doesn’t have a mask, the store will provide one. They had someone at the door greeting customers on Thursday and letting them know about the rule.

Employee stands at the door waiting for customers
A Waterloo Records employee stands at the door waiting to greet customers and tell them about the mask requirement (KXAN photo/Grace Reader)

“It just seemed like rather than waiting for stage four, we would go ahead and make that move to require a mask,” Kunz said. “It’s a reluctant decision, but I know it’s best for the safety of our customers and staff.”

The APH announcement comes just two days before Record Store Day, a day that traditionally brings a spike in customers. They also have a record signing event Sunday.

“I always say, ‘what we’re doing isn’t brain surgery here — it’s just rock and roll,'” Kunz said. “It’s all fun and games until somebody gets hurt or somebody gets sick and we’re not going to let that happen.”

Patrons at the store told us they had no problem with the rule — others responded to the announcement on social media.

“Thank you for being proactive,” Carmen Gomez commented on Facebook. “I know this is hard on y’all and the restaurant industry but we appreciate y’all doing the right thing. I know we will continue to order curbside.”

Anne McKenna Davis responded: “Good move! It’s just not worth the risk. I will visit with my mask very soon!”

People shop for records
Masked shoppers browsed shelves at Waterloo Records (KXAN Photo/Grace Reader)

Navigating a new normal

People gather by the bar at the cinema
People gather at the Austin Film Society Cinema for the first time in 16 months (Courtesy: AFS)

The Austin Film Society Cinema was scheduled to reopen, coincidentally, the same day APH made their announcement that case numbers and hospitalizations were on the rise.

The cinema will be following Austin Public Health guidelines when it comes to mask-wearing — meaning, masks are not required for fully vaccinated people, but are for people who are unvaccinated unless eating or drinking.

AFS Cinema has a number of additional COVID-19 practices they’ll be implementing during their shows, including:

  • Hand sanitizers will be stationed throughout the lobby and at the entrance
  • Anyone with active COVID-19 symptoms may be asked to leave, and tickets will be refunded. Customers feeling sick are asked to stay home.
  • All high-traffic areas will be cleaned and sanitized regularly.

A long time coming

It’s been 16 months since the cinema was forced to shut down because of COVID-19. It’s been roughly five months after Gov. Greg Abbott announced that businesses across the state could operate at 100% capacity.

“We wanted to open as soon as we could, once the community was ready to return to the cinema,” Holly Herrick, head of film and creative media for AFS, said. “We had a lot of milestones to get through.”

Those milestones included fundraising efforts, and hiring staff.

Started in 1985 by Dazed and Confused director and Austinite Richard Linklater, AFS is the only nonprofit art cinema in Austin. Unlike Cinemark or AMC, the AFS Cinema does not show blockbuster movies. 

“It’s really about going out and discovering something new. We’re just excited to be open and to share this really special place,” Herrick said.

Austin Film society scheduled shows
The Austin Film Society cinema officially reopens Thursday, here’s their movie lineup (Courtesy: Austin Film Society Cinema)

Tickets are now on sale, though AFS officials say they expect their initial shows to be busy, if not sold out.

Click here to see KXAN’s additional coverage of the cinema’s reopening.

What are Stage 3 guidelines?

While nothing in this stage changes for people who are fully vaccinated, stage 3 does alter recommendations for those who are at high risk of infection and have not received their vaccine.

A sign on Waterloo Records warns of mask requirement
A sign on Waterloo Records warns of mask requirement (KXAN Photo/Grace Reader)

APH suggests avoiding indoor and outdoor gatherings for people who are high risk, along with nonessential travel, dining and shopping.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he “hated” that he was talking at a press conference about moving back stages and talking about COVID-19.

“This is kind of gut-check time for our community,” he said. “We’re concerned about each person in our community, especially those who are at greater risk.”

He said that “almost everyone” who is currently in the hospital with COVID-19 hasn’t been vaccinated.

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