County Judges, Councils Working on Plan to Reopen Businesses Post-Coronavirus

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There are early discussions of how and when businesses can reopen and operate once the coronavirus pandemic passes, according to Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley.

Whitley said there is no targeted date on exactly when service restrictions can either be weakened or lifted, but there are talks happening between county judges, the North Texas Council of Governments, and the DFW Hospital Council.

“Just as we have been meeting and planning long before we got to this point in the virus, we are already doing the same with regards to how are we going to come out of this?” Judge Whitley told NBC 5 Friday.

“The example that I’ve used to kind of describe that is – they may say, well we can open the restaurants back up, but the way we need to do it is maybe they can only have half as many tables as before we started this. Maybe all of their employees have to wear masks. Maybe to the extent of screening the employees but also the customers that come in.”

Whitley said realistically, businesses may not open back up immediately and without any sort of guidelines even once the pandemic passes.

“The last thing in the world we want to do is get over the hump in this deal and feel like we’re actually beginning to come out of it and open everything back up and then we just put ourselves right back where we were and we start the whole process over again,” he said.

Restaurants like Michaels Cuisine have been operating as curbside pickup and delivery only for the past three weeks under state orders in an effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The restaurant on West 7th Street has been in Fort Worth for nearly three decades.

Owner Michael Thomson said every day is a learning curve.

“We started out with a pretty big menu and we’ve been honing it down and fine-tuning it just based on economics. I don’t have the full staff to do a whole lot of the preparation to run a giant menu,” Thomson said. “A lot of local chefs and restauranteurs have talked about it. We’ve fought some hard fights in the past, but this one kind of caught off guard. Got us by surprise. It’s just so different from anything else.”

Thomson said even when restaurants can operate with dine-in services again, he does not expect large crowds immediately.

“I do expect to go back to where we were on March 17 or 16 where we had to take half of our tables out and half of our chairs,” he said. “I’m anticipating a really busy bar business and of course, we do food in our bar – but our menu is going to be limited, and we’ll probably grow and take baby steps until we see what happens.”

At Michaels Cuisine, Thomson said the level of sanitation standards has never been higher. This is something he said will more than likely carry over once restaurants and businesses are able to reopen.

For now, he’s stressing the importance of supporting local.

“They’re all working hard just like I am to try to make sure we’re still going to be around when it does get to whatever it’s going to get back to. As much as I would love to have a huge long line, I’d gladly share that with my local colleagues because they all work hard,” he said. "I’ve gone through a lot of things. Hurricanes, droughts, recessions. I’m not going to let coronavirus shut us down."

Mike Eastland, executive director of the North Texas Council of Governments, told NBC 5 they expect to have a draft proposal in the next few weeks.

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