Businesses struggle to balance safety, profits as Texas shifts mask responsibility to them

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide mask mandate expired Wednesday, and while more businesses around Austin reopen doors, there’s still a sense of reluctance with some business owners to do so at full capacity — even though they’re now allowed.

Donn’s Depot on West Fifth Street is set to open its doors once plumbing issues from February’s winter storms are fixed, which should be around April, owner Donn Alderman said.

The iconic dance hall and bar sat empty for a long time because of the pandemic.

“We shut down March 14 of last year,” Alderman said. “I have never been out of work that long in my life.”

Michelle Beebe has worked at Donn’s for more than 20 years, and she says it wasn’t easy not going to the place she loves, but she’s ready to get back to work.

“I have done little things with my coworker Tammy just to do small improvements while we were closed,” Beebe said.

Alderman has kept paying his staff even with the doors closed to the public.

At one point, he didn’t know if he would be able to stay open, but longtime patrons stepped in and raised more than $70,000 to help him pay his staff.

“If it weren’t for so many people that stepped in and loved Donn’s like I do and donated and checked in and made sure we could move forward while we deal with this, then we wouldn’t be open,” Beebe said.

When Donn’s Depot opens its doors, safety will still be a priority.

“They are going to have a mask when they come in,” Alderman said.

Alderman says he is still trying to figure out how many people they will let in, but it won’t be near 100% capacity allowed by Abbott’s new order.

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