Texas restaurants return to 50% capacity in dining rooms

Beginning Monday, Texas restaurants must reduce the number of customers in their dining rooms to 50% of their seating capacity. That’s down from 75% as the state continues to see a surge in coronavirus cases.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued the executive order Friday in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. He said he hoped it would be a short-lived effort.

Dr. Emily Williams Knight from the Texas Restaurant Association said many restaurant owners are okay with the scaling back.

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“You know, we can’t argue with the numbers and we began looking at the numbers very closely last week and as we saw those numbers starting to increase we started to know that there may be some activity that was going to come our way. So, we support Gov. Abbott’s action because if it does slow the spread that will get us to 100% much faster,” she said.

The organization also pointed out that social distancing guidelines made it hard for most restaurants to exceed 50% capacity anyway.

“It is darn near impossible for me to get more than 50 percent in this restaurant and still maintain all the social distancing guidelines,” said Maguire’s Restaurant owner Mark Maguire, adding that the rollback was unfortunate but not unexpected.

The Texas Restaurant Association used the opportunity to ask for other things like a waiver that was granted Saturday for selling mixed alcoholic drinks. Previously restaurants were allowed to sell alcohol with to-go and delivery orders but it had to be in a factory sealed container.

“Any time we can increase revenue right now for our restaurants is a win,” Williams Knight said. “So we were able to secure a waiver that allows them to mix that alcohol on sight and put it in a sealed container, transport it and then safely in the car. And it allows them just to move more product and gain more revenue right now at a time when they really need it most.”

Gov. Abbott’s latest order also required bars to close at noon Friday with no indication on when they will be allowed to reopen.

The Texas Bar and Nightclub Association is threatening to sue the state over the order, which it calls unfair.

The organization represents the so-called 51% bars which make more money from alcohol sales than food. It is threatening to sue in both state and federal court and is soliciting bar owners who want to join the suit.

RELATED: Interactive map of Texas COVID-19 cases