Houston and Harris County officials have announced that all bars and clubs must close, and starting tomorrow restaurants will only offer takeout, drive-thru, and delivery in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus via social distancing.
Over the past few days, New York, Los Angeles, and numerous other cities and states have ordered the closure of bars and restaurants to enforce social distancing and directly slow the spread of the terrifying and fast-moving disease, with over 4,000 cases now known in the United States, eight known cases in Harris County, and countless more believed to be silently spreading. Earlier today, Louisiana announced the closure of all its bars, while ordering restaurants to become take-out only. And as of this afternoon, it was unknown what our own officials might be considering for our area, whether limiting restaurant seating capacity, allowing drive-thru, takeout and delivery services only.
Well, now we know. Here's what they've decided will go into effect at 8 a.m. tomorrow for the next 15 days:
- Restaurants must offer only delivery, pick-up and drive-thru service.
- All bars and clubs must close.
- Residents are recommended to stay home, unless necessary, and stay away from crowds.
This news comes hot on the heels of the CDC’s new recommendations asking Americans to avoid gatherings of any more than 10 people for the next 15 days as well as bars, restaurants and food courts.
"The situation is becoming more and more serious," Judge Lina Hidalgo announced at the conference, yet she and Mayor Sylvester Turner both noted seeing groups of people packing out local restaurants and bars this weekend. Social distancing (Staying home! Staying six feet away from people in public!) is necessary to slow down the progression of the virus and keep our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed by a bunch of cases all at once, by flattening the curve, the growth rate of those infected with the virus. "This is not a city or county lock down," Turner added. "These are very measured steps, based on what we're seeing, that are needed at this time to slow the progression."
Harris County had an estimated 331,500 leisure and hospitality workers (including those who work in bars and restaurants) as of October 2019, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but the question of how many of those workers will now be able to pay their rent, to survive, to move forward is becoming a looming problem. In a report today on the hardships that lie ahead for the hospitality industry, famed New York restaurateur Tom Colicchio told the New York Times, "This is the end of the restaurant business as we know it.”
In Houston, the restaurant business will continue to go on for the next 15 days in an extremely limited capacity. But what the future holds? Nobody knows.