Businesses take extra cleaning precautions ahead of May 1 reopening

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Under the guidance of Gov. Greg Abbott, retailers, restaurants, movie theaters and malls will be allowed to open May 1. Some are taking extra precautions, doing what it can to ease public concern and welcome the community into its doors.

On Monday, the governor issued the executive order, mandating that these locations only operate at 25% capacity.

It begs the question: Are we ready for that yet?

Some say it’s too soon.

“It just kind of makes me angry because why can’t we just wait it out and avoid more chaos and people getting sick and dying?” said Mikey Tooley.

For some, age is a factor.

“Most of the people I talked to, since I am younger, a lot of them just want to go out already and hang out with people,” said 13-year-old Zanya Pena.

“Well, I’m the opposite. I don’t think anyone wants to get back yet,” retorted Pena’s family member, Jazveniz Rojas.

Business owners can sense that hesitancy.

Flores Mexican Restaurant, which has several locations in Austin, posted on Facebook that all franchises will be reopening, operating within a 25% capacity cap mandated by the governor’s office.

Maria Flores, the owner and operator for 26 years, said she’s doing everything she can to go above and beyond the governor’s guidelines.

“We’re cleaning. We’ve never been cleaner! We are keeping everything sanitized and I’m teaching my staff about social distancing,” Flores said.

In addition, staff will be required to wear masks at all times, disinfected tables and chairs will be placed six feet apart from one another and guests will not be allowed to dine longer than 90 minutes. The restaurant will use disposable menus and will mandate guests waiting for their seating stay outside until they receive a text alert.

For Flores, opening back up isn’t about profit. It’s about giving jobs back to her staff and getting used to a new routine while learning from any inevitable mistakes along the way.

“We don’t expect people to come, we are actually expecting it to be slow, and we expect more curbside than dining in. But that will give us the opportunity to get everything right and get my staff in the training of getting used to doing everything right,” Flores said.

Malls in Austin, including the Domain and Barton Creek Square announced they will open on Friday, but movie theaters Alamo Drafthouse and AMC said they will not be ready to open.

Opening overseas

Hotels and restaurants across Italy are getting ready to welcome visitors. They’re sanitizing kitchens, tables rooms and lobbies.

A restaurant in Rome is installing Plexiglas barriers between tables and even on tables. One of the owners said the partitions will give diners a sense of security and safety.

Restaurants and bars in Italy have been told they can reopen on June 1, 2020. Museums libraries and retailers are allowed to open May 18, 2020.

Business liability

State leaders say they’re in talks with federal officials to work on ways to get customers back into businesses without the establishments getting sued if someone contracts COVID-19 after visiting.

Opponents say it should be up to the court system to determine what happens, not congress. Those pushing for liability waivers say they should only be doled out to businesses following the rules.

“They’re being asked open their businesses at a 25% capacity. That’s difficult, but they’re doing it, they’re going to do it. And when they do that they shouldn’t have to have the fear and the danger in the womb of these lawsuits because they don’t do something perfectly,” said Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.

“I think government’s focus right now needs to be increasing testing, and ensuring businesses that are up and are doing so in a safe manner, to where we’re minimizing exposure to the virus,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner.

Congress represents what’s likely the fastest way to implement a liability waiver. State lawmakers don’t meet again until January unless the governor calls for a special session.

Do you have a story idea or tip you’d like to share? Connect with Alex Caprariello on social media or e-mail him at alexc@kxan.com!

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