75% restaurant capacity brings mixed views from owners


AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the State of Texas continues to reopen, Friday will mark a new day for restaurants working to recover from the coronavirus pandemic shut down.

Counties with 10 or fewer active cases can increase their occupancy limits to 75%. Restaurants can move from 50% to 75% occupancy.

“You got your places like Chick Fil A that you drive by everyday and they don’t seem to skip a beat,” said David Fernandez, Owner of the Frog & the Bull.

That’s not been the case at David Fernandez’s 8-month-old restaurant.

“We were on pace to have our best month yet, right after Corona knocked us sideways,” said Fernandez.”

Frog & The Bull, Steiner Ranch.

Friday, he welcomes Governor Abbott’s 75% capacity allowance with open arms.

“Come on, let’s go. Enough is enough. People know the risks,” said Fernandez.

Those risks include no mask requirements or temperature checks at his restaurant, but staff is doing extra cleaning and keeping tables spaced apart. Still, Fernandez doesn’t expect the customers to all return overnight, he says demand isn’t rushing back.

At the Oasis on Lake Travis, the crowds have been building since they opened a month ago.

“It’s been a whirlwind. Every single day has been progressively better than the day before,” said General Manager Jody Theriot.”

Jody Theriot says he’s seen anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half wait times nearly every day., even during lunch hours. Going forward, the same same safety protocols apply: including masks for entry and special rail cleanings: They’ll just open up their 3rd deck.

The Oasis on Lake Travis requiring a mask to enter.

Over the last couple of months, the owner and Chef at New Awlins Cajun Cafe, Aaron Hegger, said it’s been tough. They’re slowly starting to see more people trickle in, but not necessarily to dine in.

Hegger said for the most part people continue to stick to takeout. He said there are a few who are happy to dine in and on average 10 people do each day. Before the coronavirus outbreak, Hegger said the restaurant would be packed at times.

He’s thankful for those who stop by, and hopeful the 75% capacity expansion could mean more customers decide to venture out to their local restaurants.

“When they come here they say, ‘Oh, Aaron, we are so glad to be out and see you’re still in business.’ And as time goes on, we see more and more people coming in and pretty much it’s probably going to be full capacity,” he said.

Just a few doors down, in the same northwest Austin shopping center, BowlMenu is working to get things going.

It’s a new concept offering a fusion of foods from Asian to Latin cuisines for what was once Austin’s only Uzbek restaurant.

The owner tells KXAN they had to make the change in order to survive, but he’s hopeful this change will attract more customers. Yet, employees at BowlMenu don’t expect many to come in and sit down.

“People who know you before COVID-19 and they’re regular customers they come in and sit down,” David Casas, the restaurant’s chef said. “But the new people come in and take the food-to-go, and that’s all.”

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