Business Owners Grapple With Decision: Open at 100% Capacity? Require Masks?

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In one week, Governor Greg Abbott’s newest order goes into effect, allowing any privately-owned business to decide their own COVID-19 restrictions, if any, when it comes to occupancy limits and whether employees and customers are required to wear a mask.

Some in the business community welcome the freedom while others worry about the consequences.

“It puts everyone in an uncomfortable position,” said Ryan McWhorter, owner of Panther Island Brewing. “The main reaction was surprised and shocked. I feel like it was a little too early.”

Owners, like McWhorter, will now get to decide whether to open their establishments at full capacity and whether to require face coverings.

“As far as Panther Island is concerned, we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing to keep our employees and our patrons safe,” he said. “If there’s a patron that comes in without a mask, we will do our best to kindly ask them to go to their seat and we’ll serve them at their table.”

The governor’s abrupt change has been met with concern among medical professionals and business owners from the brewery in Fort Worth to Rapscallion in Lowest Greenville.

“A little bit disappointed,” said owner Brooks Anderson about the governor’s order. “Neve even from a restaurant perspective, just from general society perspective.”

Both establishments are opting to continue following CDC guidelines, keeping capacity down and requiring face coverings for staff and customers.

“While there’s still community spread going on and people haven’t been vaccinated, we’re going to keep tables a bit spread out. We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Anderson.

Other business owners are ready to fully open their doors and go mask-less.

“Here at the Rail, we don’t care if you wear a mask or not. That’s your power of choice,” said Rail Club Live in Fort Worth owner Chris Polone.

Polone said they’ll keep checking temperatures at the door and offering hand sanitizers.

He’s concerned they’ll be shut down again if hospitalizations increase above 15%.

Asked if he’s concerned he could potentially contribute to an increase in COVID-19 cases or deaths, Polone said: Be mindful of each other’s spaces, wash your hands, these are social contracts that we’ve all lived our lives off of and I honestly don’t think this will have anything to do with the bars whatsoever.”

The Texas Restaurant Association said there is also the concern of potential hostility involving patrons on both sides of the mask-issue.

Panther Island Brewing will stand its ground and trust the science.

“That’s how we make beer, we know when beer is finished because of numbers. We know when beer is finished because of science,” said McWhorter. “Such as the CDC knows when the numbers of COVID-19 are going down. So we’re going to adhere by those numbers.”

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