For about a month, restaurants in Texas have been allowed to operate at 75% capacity after Gov. Greg Abbott’s Sept. 17 executive order loosened some COVID-19 restrictions.
Still, not all is well in the world of Texas restaurants. Popular eateries around the state have shuttered – icons like Austin’s Threadgill’s, which closed after nearly 90 years in business. Even those that have survived still face a long road ahead to economic recovery, made even harder by stalled federal stimulus talks. In fact, the Texas Restaurant Association is telling eateries in the state not to hold their breath for another stimulus payout that may never happen.
“It was really the first week of August when our congressional leaders went home, that was the first sort of, ‘This is not going to happen.’ And it was really hard for us; we really thought we were there,” Emily Williams Knight, CEO of the Texas Restaurant Association, told Texas Standard. “We knew it was what we needed. We needed that and some employee tax credits, some liability protection. All of these elements had been discussed. …We’ve literally been in limbo now since the first week of August, and it is a back and forth game.”
Knight said that before the pandemic hit, there were some 50,000 restaurants in the state, employing more than 1.3 million people. Since then, about 15% have permanently closed, and she fears that 10% more could be at risk without quick action from Congress.
“We need the governor to extend us to 100% [capacity],” Williams Knight said. “Dining rooms are safe and if they don’t want to dine in, there’s never been a better time than the fall in Texas to dine outside, maybe buy gift card or take food to go. And … we absolutely need Congress to pass a stimulus bill that will provide some protection and some essential cash flow to these restaurants.”