DALLAS - North Texas restaurants are finding themselves in a no-win situation thanks to the end of Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask order.
Restaurant owners can no longer lean on that as the reason they require masks inside their business. And angry people on both sides of the debate seem to be taking it out on employees.
Beginning Wednesday, Dickey’s restaurant chain is allowing customers to move around inside without masks on. Dining rooms at all 163 Texas locations have re-opened to 100% capacity for the first time since the pandemic hit.
Laura Rea Dickey is the company's CEO. She said increasing dine-in capacity also means bringing more employees back to work.
"The change to our guests they will come in as comfortable. So they may not wear masks any longer. Our pit crew, however, our team members will still be in masks," she said.
The Truck Yard in the Lower Greenville neighborhood announced on social media it too has reopened to 100% capacity. Employees will continue to wear masks. Customers are encouraged to but not required.
For bars, the governor's go-ahead to reopen at 100% capacity also allows them to reopen as alcohol establishments for the first time in a year.
The owner of The Taproom declined to do an interview but said by phone he's thrilled. Taproom will limit capacity. Customers could be seen inside enjoying a cold beer.
Shell Shack CEO Dallas Hale says face coverings will be optional for guests at his restaurants. He says there's no easy solution.
"It is a no-win situation. Whichever way you go, somebody is going to be upset," he said. "Please bear with us, and we will all get through this together."
The restaurants are asking customers to be patient as they make decisions and respect the choice of others.
Deep Ellum Art Company, a concert venue classified as a bar, has mostly been closed during the pandemic.
"I never would’ve imagined that my business could be literally taken from me like that," Deep Ellum Art Company owner John LaRue said.
LaRue said he planned to defiantly open this week.
"We were opening on the 11th regardless, because of the situation that we were in," he said.
LaRue said the situation was to open or lose the business, but Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to lift COVID-19 restrictions meant all businesses can now legally open at full capacity.
Still, LaRue said it’ll be at least seven months before his business is back to normal, as shows will be outside in the backyard with limited seating and masks required, like many businesses.
LaRue knows all-too-well what it’s like to be closed for business. He’s hoping his gradual approach to reopening works for the long haul.
"Months and months before we’re able to do that, or even comfortable doing that," LaRue said. "Texas seems to be one of the first ones to have gone, you know, full ham with this no-mask thing and no rules and 100% of everything."
"We’re going to maintain our mask mandate," said Alycen Cuellar, owner of The Local Oak in the Bishop Arts District in Dallas. "Would I prefer not to wear one? Yes. But am I going to risk the health of others? No."
Cuellar said business is down 53%, but she had a mixed reaction to the governor’s decision.
"I understand why he did it, but I think it might have been a little too soon," she said.
She says a customer gave her a hard time about wearing a mask and even mocked the one she wore.
"They called me Wyatt Earp. They said, ‘OK, Wyatt Earp.’ I said, ‘Please put on your mask,’ and they said, ‘OK, Wyatt Earp!’
Cuellar plans to keep capacity at around 50 percent, and masks must be worn while walking in and out.