Reservations filled up at restaurant reopening amid stay home order

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston area restaurant reopened its dining room for the first time in weeks, defying Harris County's Stay-At-Home order, and no one tried to stop it.

"There has to be a point in time, the bleeding from the restaurant needs to stop. These guys (employees) have go to get back to work, but safely," Federal American Grill owner Matt Brice told ABC13. Brice first announced his plan on Wednesday. He said reservations "sold out" in 10 minutes.

WATCH: Federal Grill reopens during pandemic with a full house
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Federal American grill opens in midst of COVID-19



"I've been waiting forever now, it feels like, to have somebody bring me a drink and take care of me. It's fabulous," said diner Charles Lyons. "He's not trying to be a rebel, he's trying to keep his business alive," added wife, Adrienne Lyons.

It was reservation-only. Brice limited seating to only a third of the dining room capacity. The staff wore masks and gloves. He set strict safety and social distancing rules. By re-opening, he also forced Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo's hand.

"It's sad. It's a problem because it puts us at a disadvantage and diminishes all the other sacrifices that every other institution is making, other business owners are making," Hidalgo said.

WATCH: Mayor Turner says all restaurants should still be applying to the executive order until the governor cancels it
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Although the Federal Grill isn't in the city of houston, Mayor Turner said as long as the executive order is in place, all restaurant owners should apply.



Brice risked a $1,000 fine or even jail time, but no one showed up to enforce the order that limits restaurants to take-out service only.

The Hedwig Village police chief and mayor did come to support the restaurant, along with city council members from surrounding cities. Renee Davis stood outside with a sign that read, "Democrats against Lina" and "Let Us Work."

"I think it is fantastic," said Davis. "I wish there were more businesses that were willing to step across the rules and choose what they want to do."

One passersby disagreed with the opening, but declined to be interviewed.

Brice says he doesn't want to be the face of defiance, but he would rather be known for preserving jobs and keeping his business alive.

"I'm not trying to start any war with her whatsoever, but sometimes, it takes a push to get things moving," said Brice.

FULL INTERVIEW: ABC13 spoke with the owner of Federal Grill, who said he's reopening his restaurant despite Harris County's executive order
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One Houston restaurant owner has decided not to let Harris County's stay-at-home/work safe order prevent him from operating his business.



Federal American Grill issued a statement with the following measures they intend to put in place:
1. Every employee will be required to have their temperatures taken before allowed to clock in and begin working by the manager on duty. Any employee not deemed fit to work will be sent home and required to show proof of being tested negative for COVID-19, before returning to work

2. Every employee will be required to wear hand gloves and change as needed

3. All employees will be required to wear face masks while working

4. All menus will be disposable and used once per patron

5. A bathroom attendant will manage a 1 person at a time use of our restrooms along with continuous sanitation of facilities

6. Doors will be open for adequate air flow through the dining areas.

7. Paper goods and disposable items will be used whenever possible (no unnecessary items will be on the tables such as salt & pepper shakers)
a. Salt & pepper packets
b. Sugar packets, sweeteners, & creamers

8. All high traffic areas will be diligently sanitized. Examples include (not limited to):
a. Door handles, phones, check presenters, POS stations, and pens
b. Tables and chairs will be immediately sanitized after every use.

9. Open to the public up to 30% occupancy. After two weeks of testing this pilot program & positive information from our local government we may increase occupancy.
a. Minimum of 6ft between tables (we will do 8 feet whenever possible) to ensure social table distancing. No more than 6 guests per table.

10. Hands free payment options will be available and strongly recommended.
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