As cases of omicron continue to rise, several restaurants are temporarily closing. We first reported on restaurant closures in New York City, Houston and Philadelphia on December 22nd. The wave hit locally a day later when Thunderbird Station had to close just before Christmas due to sick staff. Amor y Queso closed shortly after.
According to New York Times, cases of COVID in Dallas County have increased by 534% in the last 14 days. Admissions increased by 52% during the same period.
Last week, Shoals in Deep Ellum closed for a night “of an abundance of caution” due to a sick employee. On January 3, Tei An wrote on his Facebook page that it was closing after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Detour Donuts is trying to reopen this Friday after closing several days ago, urging customers to wear masks inside the store.
Oak Lawn bar Alexandre’s closed for the remainder of January, after employees submitted a proposal calling for an immediate closure of the bar “for a period of no less than 30 days to avoid the continuing massive incoming wave of transmissions here.”
And AllGood Café, the restaurant and venue for live music in Deep Ellum, wrote this week that they are also shutting down the safety of their customers and staff after positive tests. Owner Mike Snider says they will keep it closed for as long as they need it, even though he only hopes for about five days. He does what he can to keep his staff paid, he says.
The term “soft-lockdown” has been applied to this form of self-regulation: companies shut down because so many employees are sick. Rodney E. Rohde is Professor and Chair of the Clinical Laboratory Science Program at Texas State University. When we asked if these rolling voluntary closures would help stem the flow of COVID cases, Rohde said everything helps.
“From a purely public health and infectious disease perspective, any mitigating measure helps reduce transmission,” says Rohde. “How much it helps is hard to measure when at this point it’s like putting a plug in a hole on dozens of holes in the dam.”
In terms of financial support for these struggling restaurants, the Congress-approved Restaurant Revitalization Fund ran out of funds in July, after meeting less than 35% of the grant applications it received in Texas.
Kelsey Erickson Streufert is Vice President of Government Relations and Advocacy for the Texas Restaurant Association.
“Past federal relief efforts were great, but they were short-term lifelines. And this pandemic has shown us that it’s going to take a while to rebuild,” Streufert said.
She says there are “talks” between two parties at the federal level about funds similar to the relief fund aimed at smaller businesses.
Texas has allocated $ 180 million in aid to the hospitality and tourism industry in the state, though they have not figured out how to allocate it yet.
“Will that be enough? Absolutely not. But it’s something,” Streufert says.