Last week, they were finally given a chance to return to normalcy, after the governor issued an executive order lifting the state’s mandate and allowing companies to reopen to 100% of the state. its capacity.
As varied as the approaches were their experiences this weekend, the first without limits Covid-19 in companies: some saw business improve, others said things remained virtually the same. One was the target of racist vandalism.
That’s what some Texas companies told CNN about their first weekend since the restrictions were lifted.
Mike Nguyen, San Antonio
On Sunday morning, Mike Nguyen discovered that his San Antonio restaurant, Noodle Tree, had been vandalized with racist messages after appearing in local media and CNN to criticize the decision to lift the mask’s mandate. .
According to photos he shared with CNN, “Kung flu,” “back to China,” and “I hope you die,” it was written in red spray paint. (CNN has contacted the San Antonio police department to comment on the incident).
“Honestly, for me it’s a piece of cloth that goes through your face,” he said. “I don’t understand why they took him this far, but I guess they wanted to send a message that masks are ridiculous or whatever.”
But aside from the vandalism, Nguyen said the weekend went well. He chose to continue requiring masks for customers unless they were sitting at their tables. And it has covered the dining room by between 60% and 70%, instead of reopening it completely.
Before the restaurant was vandalized, Noodle Tree actually doubled its business compared to last weekend, said Nguyen, who considered it one of the restaurant’s “busiest weekends.” He could not say whether the increase was due to the removal of restrictions or community support.
Nguyen said whoever vandalized his restaurant does not represent the Texans and does not represent St. Antonians. On Sunday, Nguyen told CNN people he had been approaching the business all morning to help clean up.
“I’m very humiliated,” he said. “But no wonder. That’s what we do as jeans, that’s what we do as St. Antonians: we help each other.”
He said this was also evident in the amount of jeans still wearing masks, despite the relaxed restrictions.
“It shows you a little bit that there is light at the end of the tunnel and we can go back to what we used to be,” he said. “That’s encouraging.”
“I just hope we don’t go back,” he added.
Lisa Dickinson, Fort Worth
Lisa Dickinson, the manager of a Fort Worth store called Parts Unknown, said the business was fantastic this weekend. On Saturday, the store really surpassed the business it had done at the same time in 2019, he said. “It was a good day.”
The store does not require masks from its customers, Dickinson said, a decision his corporate office made. But most customers who came in this weekend wore masks anyway, he said.
“No one was upset with those who didn’t and no one was upset with those who did,” he said. “Everyone cared about their own business and had a good time.”
A number of customers this weekend were in their 50s and 70s, Dickinson said, and were told they had been “welcomed into their homes for the past year because of the pandemic.”
“They felt comfortable going out,” he said, in some cases because they had been able to get vaccinated. “It’s like the first time they ventured in a while. They chose to come to Fort Worth, they grabbed a hotel, they had dinner, they shopped.”
Dickinson said people are smart enough to make their own decisions about wearing masks. But he acknowledged the pandemic is not over and said he hoped people would be “sensible” and not gather in large groups.
“But after what I witnessed this weekend, the good people in Texas … respect what they have to do and I don’t think they have to tell us what to do or hide in our homes,” he said. “So I have high hopes for the future.”
Nicola Blaque, Sant Antoni
Chef Nicola Blaque has two restaurants in San Antonio. One of them, Mi Roti, which opened during the pandemic, is located in a San Antonio food hall and the property handles Covid-19 restrictions there. This means there are no indoor dining rooms or masks for everyone.
Despite the restrictions, business Saturday was “really good,” Blaque told CNN.
“The restrictions on this restaurant are very strong,” he said, “and we had no reaction or anyone not following the rules.”
As for his other restaurant, The Jerk Shack, the business was largely the same this weekend as it was during the pandemic. Although the restaurant has outdoor restaurants, Blaque has continued to serve takeaway service and still encourages social distancing.
But, following the governor’s order, Blaque decided to give customers the option to wear masks to The Jerk Shack, a decision that earned him a couple of comments from a customer star who were upset that he didn’t demand them .
Blaque said the decision was primarily for the safety of his employees. I didn’t want to put them in a position where they might have to apply masks to clients who didn’t cooperate.
“I’m a minority, so 2020 wasn’t the easiest for black restaurants,” he said. “Not only was the pandemic happening, but other things that were affecting our business. So we just had to make the right decisions so that we didn’t get so much reaction and so much tension.”
In the past, they have been the targets of racial insults and threats, Blaque said. Someone took out the windows of his food truck in front of his restaurant.
“Even the thought or threat of violence: it’s not worth the safety of my employees,” he said.
Ryan Lachaine, Houston
For months, staff at Riel’s restaurant in Houston have been interpreting the book regarding the safety of Covid-19, chef and partner Ryan Lachaine told CNN. The restaurant has been scrubbed so many times that the varnish comes off some of the seats.
But given the first opportunity of a year to open to 100% capacity, Lachaine and his business partners made the tough decision to continue the course. This weekend, Riel was still running at 50% capacity and masks were still a must, Lachaine said. As a result, the restaurant did not see much change.
“It’s normal, for us. It was practically a Friday and a Saturday night,” he said Sunday, explaining that with reduced occupancy, the restaurant was as busy as it could be.
Lachaine compared running the restaurant to walking a tightrope, balancing the desire to enter with prioritizing the safety of its employees.
“In my opinion, you can’t have one without the other,” he said. “If I don’t have staff because they’re sick or afraid to go to work, I can’t produce food for people to come in. If I don’t have customers eating, I can’t pay my staff.”
As much as Lachaine would like to return to normalcy, he said he wants to wait until his employees are fully vaccinated.
“That’s my prerequisite,” he said.
Arnaldo Richards, Houston
After 12 months running at a loss, Arnaldo Richards, chef and owner of Pico’s Restaurant in Houston, said “the business has been amazing” this weekend.
“We’ve had people come and say, ‘I saw this on social media or I saw this on TV and we’re here to support you,'” he said. Richards hasn’t reopened his dining room 100% of his either. capacity, staying around 70 %.At this level, you can still keep customers socially distant safely, he said.
When the governor announced his order, Richards said he was initially excited, thinking about how it would stimulate the economy. But he chose to keep his employees, customers and community safe by keeping the restrictions in place.
In general, Richards said he was optimistic about the future, based on the reaction of community members since Abbott’s order came into force. “(Really) it doesn’t make people come out and be irresponsible,” he said.
“The governor said we could make the decision,” he said, “but it depends on the community, it depends on the individual, the company is responsible. Because after 12 months you should know how to protect yourself.”
CNN’s Danielle Wiener-Bronner contributed to this report.
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