A return to earlier business restrictions due to the sustained rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations comes at what is normally the busy holiday shopping and entertainment season.
Thursday was the 7th day COVID-19 patients were 15% or more of the total in North Texas hospitals, the trigger for returning to 50% occupancy at businesses instead of 75%.
The Bishop Arts District in Dallas was already decked out for holiday shoppers.
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“Bishop Arts has been and always will be a really great experience. Now we need people to spend some money,” business owner Cody Ellison said.
He and a business partner operate several stores in Bishop Arts.
They opened a furniture store during the pandemic, shifting away from women’s clothing since people are spending more time at home and less time dressing up to go out.
Lower occupancy limits could require an extra worker watching the door.
“That means another employee with your sales being not quite as good as you were hoping,” Ellison said.
Restaurants added patio space to safely serve customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but cold weather makes patios less appealing.
Restaurant owner Joe Groves spoke Thursday on the empty patio at Ellen’s Restaurant in the Dallas West End.
“Normally we would have about 40 or 45 people out here,” he said.
To maintain six-foot social distancing for customers and employees, his restaurants in Dallas and Addison stayed at 50% capacity when restaurants were allowed to go to 75%.
Groves said his employees were paid throughout 14 weeks of forced closure earlier this year and things were just starting to get back to normal.
“People are spending more money per person when they do go out and they're tipping more generously,” he said. “We’re to the point now that the servers and the kitchen staff are making what they would have made prior to COVID.”
Business was also improving at 60 Vines Restaurant at the Crescent in Uptown Dallas, according to CEO Jeff Carcara.
“We saw some success and we were hopeful. This new turn has definitely got us refocused on our take out,” he said.
60 Vines has four locations around the country, two in North Texas.
Carcara said his restaurants had also remained at 50% occupancy to allow safe social distancing. He said they have strong sanitation standards.
But Carcara said his company had staffing trouble during the pandemic, even at half capacity.
“Each one of those restaurants has struggled in some way shape or form to field a full staff every day.
Now, Carcara said the new restrictions present a new challenge for attracting business.
“The biggest factor is the fact that we are spiking and it’s unfortunate. And so, it’s scary. And that perception, or that reality actually, is probably going to keep people in,” he said.
All these business people said the COVID-19 challenge is to stay in business for the day when customers flock back to stores and restaurants.