Businesses in Dallas and around Texas were free Wednesday to decide for themselves how best to protect customers and employees from COVID-19 with the end of statewide restrictions.
At the original Dickey’s Barbecue restaurant on the Central Expressway at Henderson in Dallas at lunchtime Wednesday, customer Richard Purkis was dining out for just the second time in a year.
He stopped on his way back from getting his second COVID-19 vaccine shot at the Dallas Veteran’s Administration Hospital.
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“We've got to get back to life,” he said.
Dickey’s has 163 Texas restaurants and Chief Executive Officer Laura Rae Dickey said she was pleased to see a slight increase in lunchtime business across the chain.
“I expect it to be a steady factor instead of a fire hose because I think people are testing what they feel comfortable with,” she said.
The company eliminated instructions on the door asking customers to wear masks, but still requires employees to wear them.
It will continue changes like an end to buffet-style serving and the new outdoor patio option at the flagship location.
“COVID didn't just magically go away just because the mask mandate was adjusted. So our pit crew is staying in masks but our guests are dining as they're comfortable. So that's really the change for us. Everything else stays the same,” Dickey said.
Across the Central Expressway, every business at one retail strip still had requests on their doors for customers to wear masks and most customers did so.
At the 24 Hour Fitness in McKinney Wednesday, masks were no longer required. The health club set up an area for members who wanted to remain distant from people who chose not to wear masks.
At the Dickey’s restaurant, customers had mixed feelings about the end of official mask restrictions.
Customer Christian Allen wore a mask as he waited in line to be served.
“Me personally I think we should all still wear them because they're not telling us that the virus is gone,” he said.
Richard Purkis had his mask close at hand as he ate lunch.
“I think it's a personal choice whether you want to wear it or not. I wear it, when I go to food stores, I wore it when I came through here,” he said.
It will be less necessary as more people get vaccinated as Purkis has. For now, businesses and customers are on their own deciding how best to protect each other.