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

Sarah Heard, owner of Foreign and Domestic restaurant, plans to alter the menu and ramp up to-go and delivery services.

AUSTIN, Texas — Moments after Mayor Steve Adler banned all dine-in services at restaurants across the City to stop the spread of coronavirus, the co-owner of Foreign & Domestic scrambled to cancel dinner reservations on March 17.

The order left Sarah Heard worried – but not about herself.

"We are teeny-tiny, so our staff is everything to us. And we're trying to figure out a game plan to make sure we keep health insurance going for them, to keep their rent paid, their lights on," she said through tears.

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Heard employs 15 full-time staffers. She offers them benefits that include health insurance. Right now, Heard plans to pay her employees and keep their benefits because now, more than ever, is when they need it.

Mayor Adler's order also shuts down bars. He said he understands the economic impact of the order and asks for compassion from the Austin community.

Gov. Greg Abbott is asking the Texas Small Business Association to offer low-interest business loans to businesses that are hurting.

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In the meantime, Heard plans to alter her menu as she ramps up her to-go and delivery services. Customers can check out her Instagram for daily changes to her menu.  

In addition to the restaurant changes, Austin's health authority banned gatherings larger than 10 people in Austin. There are exceptions to this rule: Airports, transportation, emergency services, grocery stores, hospitals, pharmacies and schools don't have to follow the order.

It's all in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

These orders are set to last until May 1. May 31 marks Foreign & Domestic's 10-year anniversary.

WATCH: City of Austin closes all bars, restaurant dining rooms; limits gatherings to 10 people

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