Some Restaurants in No Rush to Reopen During Pandemic
By Mason Carroll
LUBBOCK – The empty dining room of House Café Gastropub is filled with the chatter of employees preparing takeout orders. Jason and Kate Diehl have owned a restaurant in this spot for more than seven years, and it is the first time their doors have been closed like this.
Restaurants’ dining rooms around the country have been shut down for more than a month because of COVID-19 mandates. House Café Gastropub had to cut employee hours and move to completely takeout orders.
“It’s just going to be a day by day kind of learning thing,” Jason Diehl said. “We don’t know what tomorrow brings. So, I think that open communication and honesty with everybody really helped us move forward through it.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced last Monday restaurants, malls and movie theaters could begin opening at 25% capacity as a part of stage one of his plan to reopen Texas. However, the House Café will not be one of those restaurants.
“We just didn’t feel like we had sufficient time to address everything we wanted to address to make sure we were keeping, the safety of our employees and our customers first,” Diehl said. “So, we just felt like trying to rush open didn’t make a lot of sense for us. We want to be able to train our employees in a different way now and to explain to employees why we are doing certain things.”
According to Restaurant Business Online, about half of the restaurants in Texas are choosing to keep their doors closed even after the governor’s announcement. According to Lubbock Restaurant Association President Chris Berry, Lubbock restaurants are following the same pattern.
“It looks like it is going to be about half split too,” Berry said. “I’m not sure what public sentiment was, or if they were expecting every single restaurant to open. It’s probably going to be about half.”
Berry owns a local catfish and fried chicken restaurant called River Smiths that is also choosing to stay closed. He says they have been blessed with significant takeout business and are at about 65 – 75% of sales.
“We’ve been counting our blessings throughout this whole thing cause I know there’s a lot of people in much worse cases,” Berry said. “So, we are probably most likely going to wait for phase two, or the 50% rule, whenever that goes into effect, hopefully May 18.”
However, Berry said he understands there are restaurants who do not get significant takeout business and need to open. He knows from first-hand experience how much work goes into operating a restaurant.
“It’s not easy,” Berry said. “You know, a lot of us had to reinvent the wheel. None of us won the lottery and all of a sudden became a restaurant owner. Just about all of us started as bussers and dishers and servers and worked our way up the ladder. So, we all have the grit. We all have the tenacity, stubbornness, whatever you want to call it. We all have that will. We’ll do it.”
On Tuesday Governor Abbott announced hair and nail salons could begin opening, and gyms could open on the 18th. Restaurants are hoping to soon open their dining rooms up to 50% capacity the governor says as long as there are no spikes in COVID-19.
“Make sure you bring in your staff, get them trained,” Berry said. “Make sure we’re following the proper procedures, proper protocols and everyone’s doing it in a safe manner. Because if one of us fails, then the whole industry fails.”
Diehl said while their doors may be closed they are still getting loads of support from their customers ordering takeout to support on social media.
“We’ve been pretty lucky in the sense that, you know, we do have a customer base that is understanding and supportive,” Diehl said.