North Texas Businesses Use Day 1 of Reopening as ‘Learning Experience'

NBCUniversal, Inc.

As certain North Texas businesses welcome patrons for the first time in weeks, many owners are using the first day of reopening as a learning experience for the weeks ahead.

Restaurateur Emil Bragdon owns Reservoir, with locations in Fort Worth and the Toyota Music Factory in Irving. At the Fort Worth location Friday, Bragdon said one of the challenges they ran into was getting people to stay distant from one another.

“We’re stipulating that at the door. We’re letting everyone know hey – it is important. At the end of the day, people have their free choice to go up to people and say hi. I notice people trying to hug each other,” Bragdon told NBC 5. “I’m like ‘Yo…stop that, you know? I’m like stop that now.’ It’s hard because at the end of the day, humans have free will here and people are so set in their ways.”

A sign was placed outside the Fort Worth restaurant on Saturday to remind people to stay 6 feet apart to ensure the safety of guests. If people did not adhere to the guidelines, the restaurant reserved the right to ask parties to leave.

“It’s something we don’t want to do, but we’re trying to be as proactive as possible to make sure that everyone is safe, everyone is following the rules,” Bragdon said. “At the end of the day, we want to move on to Phase II, Phase III of all these openings.”

The restaurant has also implemented contact-less menus using QR codes for customers to scan and pull up on their phones. The codes were placed on the tables currently in use, as state orders on the first phase of reopening allow 25% capacity for businesses like restaurants, malls, retail stores and movie theaters .

Counties with five or fewer active COVID-19 cases were permitted to operate at 50%.

At Reservoir in Fort Worth, abiding to 25% capacity means no more than 77 guests at a time. Bragdon said once they reach that limit, the restaurant will take a guest's name and number down.

Instead of crowding outside, guests are urged to wait in their cars or possibly walk around outdoors until they receive a text alerting them space is available.

Some business owners have decided to continue pick-up only, including Pax & Beneficia in Irving. Co-owner Mouyyad Abdulhadi said he and his business partner had several discussions about how they would carry out operations in the age of the novel coronavirus.

“We’re just going to wait a little bit longer to see how these first couple of days are with the state reopening and if there is spike, we’re just going to continue as is,” Abdulhadi said. “If there isn’t, then we might slowly open up the dining room again.”

For now, he said they’re waiting until they can ensure the safety of their staff and patrons. There's also a limit of three guests inside the craft coffee shop at a time.

“I’m getting as much PPE as I can get my hands on from different vendors for my staff including face shields when they’re out cleaning and checking on customers, etc., plastic barriers for the cash register and the service station,” he said.

Decisions made by business owners have not been made lightly, according to Abdulhadi.

“Ultimately, we can’t wait to have everyone back. I mean, the people are what makes this place special,” he said.

All of the decisions – no matter how tough – have been necessary, Bragdon said.

“We are having to reinvent the business a little bit,” he said. It’s scary, I’m not going to lie, but it’s something we have to do.”

In Phase II of Gov. Greg Abbott's Open Texas plan, which is expected to start on or after May 18, businesses that opened on May 1 could expand capacity to 50%.

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