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While some Austin restaurants gear up to open, others say it's not worth it

Gov. Greg Abbott's executive order allows certain businesses to open at 25% capacity on May 1.

AUSTIN, Texas — After COVID-19 cost Skeeter Miller $1,000,000, the County Line owner was thrilled about the governor's announcement on Monday.

"We were on pins and needles. When restaurants came up, we were totally excited, at any level," Miller said.

Starting on Friday, restaurants can operate at 25% capacity, and it comes with restrictions.

If you go out to eat this Friday, you need to know that restaurants must have disposable menus, employees must serve customers at buffets, no more than six people can sit at each table and tables must be at least six feet apart.

Credit: Jenni Lee/KVUE

Miller said he's doing that and more.

"We won't have table condiments on the table. They'll be sanitized in the back and brought out to the table when the customer requests that ... We'll have no-touch thermometers. We'll be checking our employees when they come to work; they will be wearing masks. We will be sanitizing the tables after each group of customers leave. We'll have hand sanitizers for the customers available around the restaurant," he said.

Sarah Heard and Nathan Lemley own Foreign and Domestic in North Austin. They're not opening on Friday because, under state guidelines, their 18-table dining room would shrink to four tables.

"But with our dining room being so small and the restrictions and the table spacing, it just doesn't make sense for us right now," Heard said.

"All of the costs that we've cut in order to go to takeout, all those costs would come back," Heard said.

RELATED: Austin restaurant owner working to keep employees' 'lights on' after City orders closures

Customers have rules too. They must maintain six feet of separation, face masks are recommended, and they must wash hands after paying.

Miller, Heard and Lemley all received Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, loans the first go-around and say they plan on rehiring back staff with that funding. Miller is just doing it sooner.

A second phase of business re-openings could come as soon as May 18 if the state sees two weeks of data to confirm no flare-up of COVID-19.


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