WACO, Texas (KWTX) If you’re planning on dining out as Central Texas restaurants begin to reopen on a restricted basis Friday, don’t expect a familiar experience.
Gov. Gregg Abbott’s statewide shelter in place order is expiring and he’s issued an order that allows retail businesses, malls, theaters and restaurants to open, but with some restrictions to prevent a new surge of COVID-19 cases.
Not all restaurants in the area plan to welcome diners back Friday; some remain closed and others say they’ll continue to limit service to pick-up and drive-thru for the time being.
And for those that are reopening, there will be some changes.
“We’re going to open up Friday just like the governor said we could and we’re planning just how to do that right now,” said Mary Duty, owner of Poppa Rollo’s Pizza.
“It means we can reopen with about 25% of our tables in place,” Duty said.
“It’ll be tough to make a profit at that rate but at least we’ll be open and working.”
“I used the 40 days it took between closing and the reopening to do some needed work in the restaurant,” Duty said.
“There are things that will be brand new when people come back in.”
“We’ll be ready. We had to cut back some and make some changes, but we’ll be open Friday under the governor’s new guidelines,” said Randy Crook, owner of the Salty Dog.
“I had laid off about 35 people, but then brought 10 of them back,” Crook said.
“I’ll have to hire more for the reopening this weekend.
“We’ll have to make sure we can keep the crowds small and it’ll be hard to make a profit at 25%.”
Both Duty and Crook said since reopening means they can only seat a quarter of their regular crowds inside, they’ll have to keep the take-out and drive-thru business going strong to make ends meet.
“It’s just something we’re going to have to keep doing even after we open for business,” Crook said.
“It’s become a majority of our business and now we can’t ignore it.”
”What we consider routine will have to change”
“It’ll make people feel better and mostly they’ve been feeling pretty down and out lately,” said Waco psychologist Dr, William Lee Carter.
Carter said the entire experience, from realizing that there was such a virus and that it was an issue, to seeing the issue come straight to the homeland and into the states and cities, living through the government’s response and the economic shutdown that followed and now standing by as the leadership struggles to restart the economy, and all the while Americans still are dying at a significant rate, is “worrisome to most everybody and pretty much no one is sure quite how to react.”
“It will take a while and we may not like it, but what we consider routine will have to change,” Carter said.
“If that means we pick up supper more often that eat out, then that’s what it means.
“We have to determine how we’ll move forward and olive our lives and then do that,” Carter said.
“This pandemic is very much different from any that preceded it,” Carter said.
It presented itself in a remote place, remained elusive, and almost invisible, spread very quickly, and became a killer in such a way that governments and experts were caught off guard.
The normal we return to will be “vastly different”
“When it comes down to it, pretty much no one alive today ever experienced anything truly like this before,” said Ashley Cruiseturner, a professor of history at McLennan Community College.
“Right now, I think most people are just coming to realize that the ‘normal’ we return to as a society is likely to be vastly different from the ‘normal’ we’ve known for centuries.”
Cruiseturner said he believes the governor’s measured approach to re-starting the Texas economy is the right approach.
“We need to start slowly in a measured and controlled fashion so we can keep the virus and any unintended spread under control,” Cruiseturner said.
“The last thing we’d want to do is give the virus a foothold and allow it to re-emerge in an aggressive fashion.”
Cruiseturner said what will be interesting is how historians will eventually view this time.
“It’s not my job yet, it’s (the journalists’) job,” Cruiseturner said.
“It’ll be my job in 10 or 20 years.
“But I believe history will note this era as a very unsettled and unusual, in fact unique time.”
He reflected back to the influenza pandemic in 1917 and 1918 that killed some 80-million worldwide.
“It won’t be like that, he said.
“We were just coming out of World War I and the influenza pandemic just seemed to be an outbreak of the war, although, of course, it was not.
Cruseturner said in a hundred years historians likely will have established the whole story when it comes to the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020, and what’s happening right now “is where they’ll start when it comes to learning what really happened.”
Money’s tight for everyone
Those who lost their jobs at the end of February or March had trouble making bills and meeting their financial responsibilities in April unless they’d been setting money aside all along.
“I’m 61 and I’ve been planning for retirement for several years, so when this all came about, I had a nest egg in retirement to get me through,” Crook said.
“If it hadn’t been for the money in those retirement accounts, I’d have gone out of business early on.”
“Some people, like those who have whole life insurance policies, can borrow against them to get by,” said Fred Daschofsky, an insurance agency owner in Gatesville, who also owns several rental properties and a large party rental venue.
He said he hasn’t seen any policy holders exercise that option yet, but “I’m sure I will be seeing that soon.”
He said some of his renters have asked for additional time to pay owed rents, and he said he’s working with them to ensure “they can do the most essential thing, which is keep their business open, continue to generate revenue, stay open and make their payroll.”
Some businesses, even those considered essential who’ve been allowed to stay open, are seeing a slight rise in trade in the past few days.
“The first three weeks I didn’t see one customer on my lot,” said used car dealer David Broadway, “but the past several days we’ve at least had people out looking.”