Bars Open, Restaurants Expand Occupancy

Across North Texas, hundreds of bars opened their doors Friday for the first time in months

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Across North Texas, hundreds of bars opened their doors Friday for the first time in months.

“Just being able to sit, order a beer and be in the breeze is amazing,” Jay S said, enjoying a beer at Lee Harvey’s in Dallas.

Under current state restrictions bars are able to open at 25% capacity and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission has been tasked with ensuring compliance.

At Lee Harvey’s, patrons socially distanced as business picked up as the afternoon went on.

“For a normal Friday, we are a little bit over normal,” bartender Kristin Parsons said.

Friday was also the day restaurants were allowed to expand their occupancy to 50%.

In recent weeks, many have said that restrictions that previously held them to 25% prevented them from turning a profit.

But at Norma’s Café in Dallas, management cited the last few weeks as a great training ground and on Friday their dining room was busy.

“We are pretty close right now to being able to break even,” Director of Operations Bill Ziegler said.

Ziegler believes the easing of restrictions will encourage more people to begin dining out again.

“I know some people don’t want to come back out but I think moving from 25% to 50% alleviates some of that fear,” Ziegler said.

More businesses open Memorial Day weekend and restaurants welcome more customers. Along with officially expanding to 50% occupancy, restaurants are striving to keep everyone safe during the holiday rush.

Up the Dallas North Tollway in Plano, the dinner rush looks much different at Maggiano's Little Italy at Willow Bend.

Staff is required to wear masks, about half the tables are off-limits and curbside to-go has been beefed up.

Because social distancing rules are still in effect, expanding capacity to 50% doesn't mean Maggiano's can add more tables, but managing partner Roy Davis said they can add more people per table.

Davis said the restaurant is limited to about 160 diners.

"Reservations are looking good for tonight, tomorrow and on Sunday so far," he said. "I've been almost surprised at how people are coming in, they're excited to get in, they want to get out," Davis said.

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