As Tarrant County reports record-breaking coronavirus case numbers, restaurateurs are playing it safe by scaling back their services.
Frezko Taco Spot owner Eliazar Salinas III closed his restaurant’s seating area Nov. 12, marking the third time the Chicano eatery has reverted to takeout since the start of the pandemic. The virus’ economic toll caused Salinas to close the shop’s first location in Southlake. Frezko’s Fort Worth location at 3409 N. Tarrant Parkway, though, has something the first location was missing: A drive-thru window.
“We thought it was going to be a bad situation, but actually, the business got better because of it,” Salinas said.
Salinas is one of several business owners around North Texas changing their restaurant operations as the region sees an influx of positive cases. Tarrant County reported 900 new cases and 740 hospitalizations due to COVID-19 Monday. The county has recorded 82,915 confirmed or probable cases since early 2020.
Belzoni’s Catfish Cafe in White Settlement announced Monday it would revert to drive-thru and takeout orders. Dwight Cooley, who owns the restaurant at 110 N. Jim Wright Freeway, said his business can do its part to protect public health.
“If the guidance is instructing people to avoid the dining in/restaurants and if that’ll help fight this thing that we’ve got, this is bound to help,” Cooley said.
Gov. Greg Abbott relaxed restrictions on businesses as case numbers dwindled in late summer and early fall. Abbott’s Oct. 7 executive order allowed county leaders to decide whether to open bars at 50% capacity and increased restaurant capacity to 75%. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley allowed bars to open with a stern warning to businesses that he said have disregarded guidelines.
Cooley and Salinas, however, are calling on state and local officials to enact more stringent restrictions as case numbers rise and crack down on businesses that do not follow guidelines.
“That’s the kind of situation that will get all of us set back and closed up,” Cooley said.
As the country nears a third wave of record-breaking case numbers, some businesses are again changing their approaches to reaching consumers while following guidelines.
Urban Alchemy Wine and Coffee Bar in Arlington is reopening Wednesday with reduced hours and a new reservation option for those who wish to hold private gatherings. The cafe at 403 E. Main St. closed Nov. 10 as employees were tested, the facilities were cleaned and staff re-evaluated their strategy, owner Tony Rutigliano said.
“There’s lots of information out there, but there’s not really a road map for what’s the best approach,” he said. “We just wanted to take the time and care just to be thoughtful about it.”
National chains have also modified their store policies. A new Costco policy that went into effect Monday requires all customers to wear a face shield or mask, regardless of medical condition. Walmart employees would resume counting customers, a practice the company began in April to manage store occupancy that locations eventually abandoned.
Salinas said he followed the lead of giants such as McDonald’s and Starbucks, which have left their dine-in areas closed since spring.
“If it worked for them, it’s got to work for the small guys, too,” Salinas said. “It’s the same concept: If you’re selling food, you’re going to make money no matter what.”
While Cooley said he may customers at Belzoni’s who would rather dine in, he’s more concerned with the quality of his restaurant’s food and service.
“I’d rather lose some sales right now and continue to operate than have to close down,” Cooley said. “That’s my logic.”
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