From Dr. Emily Williams Knight, President and CEO:
During the Governor’s press conference on Monday, I was in communication with his team and, as soon as it ended, we were already discussing plans to move to 75% occupancy. They knew how important it was to open bars and move restaurants to 50%, but they also understand that this will not sustain our sector. Therefore, they’ve welcomed our input regarding further expansions. They’ve also agreed to review the Texas Restaurant Survival Plan closely because we’ve emphasized that a gradual reopening is not enough to empower restaurants to turn the corner and become successful again in the post-COVID environment.
While we take these critical steps forward, we know there will be some backsteps as well. We’ve received one of those backsteps tonight as we learned that the governor’s medical team has made the decision that restaurant bar tops must close to guests. The medical experts cannot overcome their concerns about guests being so physically close to employees, common surfaces, and glassware and other supplies.
What does this mean? If you have a bar top that you were using to serve customers, you need to close that bar top to guests for the immediate future. This is similar to the reopening protocols Governor Abbott released for bars. Importantly, you can still have bar seating and repurpose your bar stools, as long as the bar seating is not at the bar top itself and parties are at least six feet apart. You can also repurpose your bar top for staging, to organize to-go orders, or for other work purposes.
I know this isn’t good news for many of you, but I have every confidence that this will help us to move to 75% occupancy and more. Already, we’ve had a number of conversations this week to talk through ideas to reduce the spacing between parties so when you move to 75% you aren’t so limited by the space. I am confident that if the COVID numbers continue to hold, we will get to 75% in early June and also have the ability to reconfigure to accommodate more customers.
Like with every other challenge you’ve faced, I ask that you please continue to be safe and implement this new protocol when it is officially released tomorrow morning. Thank you in advance for your continued support, and please do not hesitate to reach out to the TRA team if we can help you work through this change and maximize your dining space.