Galveston sees rise in tourism since 1st phase of state's reopening

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As Texas moves into phase II of reopening, the first part of the plans were great for tourism in Galveston, but still not benefiting Houston area restaurants.

Brennan's Restaurant hasn't reopened to dine-in service despite the governor allowing them to do so, but that changes with Monday's announcement that restaurants can expand to 50 percent occupancy.

"I wish I could say we would be open tonight," Brennan's Restaurant proprietor Alex Brennan Martin said. "It's going to take us a few more days."

Not all Houston area restaurants are able to reopen. Dak and Bop in the museum district will close its doors after operating for six years, although its Heights location will remain open.

"Unimaginable," Dak and Bop owner Jason Cho said. "I never thought I'd be in a position where I'd have to close a successful business due to reasons outside what I can control."

The National Restaurant Association said in April that restaurants saw their lowest profits in 35 years.

"Some are doing really well," Greater Houston Restaurant Association executive director, Melissa Stewart said. "For the most part, some would say it's been slow. Even at 25 percent it's still kind of slow."

But things are not slow in Galveston. Reopening beaches in May had a huge effect on the island.

"We had our traffic count, if you will, parking numbers for most of our beaches, as well as the Seawall, have nearly doubled what they were during the same time last year," Galveston Island Chief Tourism Officer Michael Woody explained.

Tourism leaders believe the island will continue to see strong numbers through the summer and it's not just the beaches.

During April, hotel occupancy was about 25 percent but in May, the weekends have seen about 80 percent.

"We're super optimistic, but very cautious, right? We'd love to welcome people to the island," Woody said. "We want to make sure residents and visitors are safe."

Restaurant owners said they're working harder to keep people safe too. They hope with a higher occupancy customers will return.

"It's going to be tough," Martin said. "Heck, it's unbelievably tough for us. Houston is going to lose some good restaurants."

With nearly 10% of all Harris County workers in the restaurant industry, the loss of these businesses will have a devastating effect for months to come.

Follow Nick Natario on Facebook and Twitter.
Copyright © 2020 KTRK-TV. All Rights Reserved.