In an executive order announced Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott set dates for increasing economic activity in the state, which includes the re-opening of several non-essential businesses including restaurants.
According to Abbott, all restaurants, retail stores, malls, and movie theaters can open their doors to the public on Friday, given those establishments operate under strict social distancing guidelines that include maintaining a maximum occupancy of 25 percent of its normal count. If the spread of COVID-19 has continued to decline, then those businesses can expand to welcome in a maximum occupancy of 50 percent of its normal count. The governor said his order supersedes all local orders.
“We’re not just going to open up and hope for the best,” said Abbott.
Also, museums and libraries without interactive and hands-on exhibits may also open under the 25 percent occupancy guideline on May 1.
The governor’s move marks a major attempt at a return to normalcy across the state and in Harris County, despite the continued spread of COVID-19. On March 16, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo ordered all bars to shut down and restaurants to only operate with take-out and delivery service; for more than a month, all establishments complied, but on Friday, Federal American Grill in Hedwig Village was the first restaurant to break Hidalgo’s order.
Restaurateurs across the city have been preparing for a reopening date for weeks, ensuring they were, at minimum, adhering to CDC guidelines.
“We should be cautious and comforting in how we serve our guests. And the guests are gonna tell us what they’re comfortable with,” says Benjamin Berg, owner of Berg Hospitality Group, which operates multiple restaurants in Harris County, like B&B Butchers & Restaurant. He says at his restaurants, employees will have their temperature taken daily, everything will be sanitized constantly, and tables have been removed to assure the at least six feet of separation between diners.
Meanwhile, a restaurant has opened in Houston. Millie's Kitchen & Cocktails, which comes from Delicious Concepts (Blackbird Izakaya, Ritual, Shepherd Park Draught House) is now operating for lunch and dinner at 3542 Oak Forest Dr. in Oak Forest.
Millie's pays tribute to seafood shack-style cuisine, especially popular from New York up to Maine. Think big baskets of fried clams and French fries, plus hefty lobster rolls. For now it's doing pick-up and delivery, and you can order exclusively on the Roovy app, which Millie's co-founder Ken Bridge created last year.
Also, a messaging app called Coast (think Slack) is helping inform people where to get take-out in Houston. The app has rolled out detailed Google maps for major American cities and regions, and its Bayou City map features more than 600 eateries with detailed information on what's available and links to order.