Fort Worth

‘The Beginning of the End': Popular Fort Worth Chef Reacts to End of Restrictions

Chef Jon Bonnell said his restaurants wouldn't relax all restrictions right away and would "encourage our customers to wear a mask."

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At the popular Downtown Fort Worth bar and eatery Buffalo Bros., the news of Gov. Abbott's (R) announcement that Texas was re-opening “100%” spread fast -- much as it did at restaurants across the state.

"I just heard about it,” said customer Hershel Gardner, a valet in the Fort Worth Stockyards.

Gardner welcomed the development but wondered if it wasn't too fast, too soon, asking, "Now all a sudden we're good?"

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Buffalo Bros. owner, well-known chef Jon Bonnell, wiped back tears.

"I'm just so glad we're starting to see the beginning of the end,” he said.

Abbott announced in Lubbock that the state would fully re-open next Wednesday and end restrictions on occupancy rates and the rule requiring people to wear masks.

In Tarrant County, Judge Glen Whitley rescinded the mask mandate immediately, saying the timing of the governor’s order was confusing even though he thought it was premature.

For Bonnell, the saga started a full year ago.

"I'll never forget March 18,” he said.

It was the day restaurants were ordered to close.

“It's been one of the hardest things ever,” he said of the last year.

Bonnell had to lay off more than half his staff and wasn't sure his business could stay afloat.

"There were quite a few months in 2020 that we didn't know if the restaurant industry was a viable financial future for a lot of us,” he said.

Bonnell said his restaurants won't rush to relax protections right away, like keeping tables spread apart a safe distance.

"We're still going to encourage our customers to wear a mask because I think it is probably safer,” Bonnell said. “Our staff is still going to wear masks. We're still going to have sanitizer. We're still going to practice the safest thing we can."

Customers like Gardner and his co-worker Rahmel Walker are happy.

"I'm excited. Like, I'm excited not to have a mask on,” Gardner said.

But they're also a little worried about moving too fast.

"I'm excited but it's kind of like a shocker,” Walker said. “We just heard the totals of how many people have died in the U.S."

Bonnell said he can't wait to turn the page, to write the final chapter in what became a year-long nightmare.

"To be able to start hiring all our employees back, to bring back all the team, it's a huge day for us,” he said. “It really means a lot."

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