Restaurant leaders say 30% of Houston eateries could close without 2nd stimulus

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Friday, September 11, 2020
30% of Houston eateries could close without 2nd stimulus
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This Houston bartender said she's hoping the state reopens soon so bars and restaurants can occupy at 100 percent capacity.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With a second stimulus check stalled in D.C., the restaurant and bar industry is waiting to see if Texas will restart reopening soon.

Bars across Texas haven't been opened for over two months and bartender Amanda Melvin said it's personally affected her.

"It's been over 70 days," Melvin explained. "There has to be something said about bars. I mean, come on. It's been a long, long wait."

Owners are hoping to hear an answer soon. Next week, Governor Greg Abbott is expected to discuss reopening the state. Florida has begun the restarting process, with bars there reopening on Monday.

"If he says we're able to open without food, I'll just be jumping for joy," Melvin said.

It's not only the bar industry waiting to see what the governor does.

The Texas Restaurant Association said it's asked the state to do more, including expanding indoor dining beyond 50 percent.

SEE ALSO: Some restaurants reopening, but government warnings raise concerns

"Capacity is one piece, but also decreasing the distancing between tables, and using partitions will allow restaurants to have more tables," Texas Restaurant Association CEO Emily Williams Knight said.

The agency estimates 30 percent of Texas restaurants could close by the end of the year.

"Until consumers are back dining in, it won't matter if its 75 or 100 [percent]," Knight explained. "We've got to encourage people to dine in, and see that it's safe to dine in."

Last month, Abbott said he'd want the statewide coronavirus positivity rate to fall below 10 percent for reopening to resume. The state's number dipped below 10 percent on Sept. 1.

Houston Health officials caution it might be too early to resume the reopening process.

In a statement from the Houston Health Department: "Houston made remarkable progress in helping lower the positivity rate to the current 6.6 percent from nearly 30 percent in mid-July. However, Houston set a goal of reducing the local positivity rate below 5 percent." The agency added, "Another important factor determining how we will need to proceed is the degree of impact that reopening schools and colleges will have on Houston's positivity rate."

Employees and owners are also waiting to see what happens in Washington, D.C.

SEE ALSO: Is dining outside really safe during coronavirus pandemic? Experts weigh in

On Thursday, a stimulus bill stalled in the Senate, which would've provided a boost to unemployment and businesses.

"It's almost unconscionable that our Congressional elected officials can go home, and leave small business hanging," Knight said.

Earlier this week, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee expressed hope that a bill would pass the senate where a compromise could be worked on with the house in a committee. But, democratic senate members blocked that from happening.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz released a statement about the stalled bill: ""Enough with Democrats' partisan games. There is important work that needs to be done to get our country on the path to recovery. We need to get people safely back to work and safely back to school, help small businesses re-hire their employees and create jobs, and expand COVID-19 testing and the search for treatments."

U.S. Senator John Cornyn also sent ABC13 a statement: "My hope is that after this first vote that cooler heads will prevail, and we'll get to work and come up with some sort of compromise. We know nobody's going to get everything they want on either side of the argument, but I don't know why we would make life more difficult on people who are already hurting by refusing for political reasons not to come together and try to help ease their pain."

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