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'We are tired of being scapegoated' | Restaurant owner frustrated with Stage 5 coronavirus recommendations

Since March, restaurants and bars have jumped through hoops to stay open as much as possible. Now, Austin recommends people order takeout to support restaurants.

AUSTIN, Texas — After Austin declared the city in Stage 5 of COVID-19 risks, Mayor Steve Adler urged people to support restaurants, but through takeout and delivery orders to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

Restaurant owners like Adam Orman, who owns L'Oca d'Oro in Mueller, said that does not pay the bills.

"What do we do about utilities? What do we do about rent? What do we do about the food or walk-in that's going to go bad now because we had no notice?" Orman said.

Orman helped create the Shop the Block program Austin City Council passed earlier this year. Since then, Orman has felt the City is giving restaurant owners minimal assistance.

"Somebody's got to foot the bill for us making such big sacrifices," Orman said. "Washington, D.C., says they can't pay for it. The State and the City say they can't pay for it, that they don't have enough money. The small businesses and the people who work for small businesses are the ones with the least amount of money in that ladder, and they're the ones who are bearing the brunt of of the of the pandemic."

Adler clarified on Wednesday night he knows these Stage 5 recommendations hurt small business, but he's hoping customers still come out to support in droves.

"We're asking the community to really step forward, and let's start using restaurants more than we do normally," Adler said. "But do it for takeout or carryout or delivery. Let's buy gift cards at bars and restaurants so that we can help them with their income. Let's let's over-tip our wait staff."

   

Some restaurant owners say they're doing everything they can to minimize risk. Eric Silverstein, the owner of Bar Peached and Peached Tortilla, has separated tables, utilized outdoor dining space and implemented cleaning practices to keep customers safe.

"It's not like we're seeing a mass influx or a mass wave of diners where we're going on wait lists every night," Silverstein said. "People are really spaced out to begin with. A demand for indoor dining just isn't what it was nine-and-a-half months ago this year."

RELATED: Texas Medical Association assesses COVID-19 risk of various holiday activities in new chart

Orman said he's tired of feeling like restaurants are footing the bill on this pandemic.

"The fact that this is just a recommendation and not an enforceable requirement is just salt in the wound," Orman said. "It just further damages guest confidence that eating out might be a safe thing, and it just utilizes this blunt instrument to scapegoat all bars and restaurants again and there's no carrot at the end."

Adler emphasized these are recommendations to make sure people are taking as many precautions as possible, especially going into Christmas and the new year. Health experts say Austin is only weeks away from possibly using the field hospital set up at the Convention Center.

"By the very definition of what's happening in a restaurant, you're taking off your mask," Adler said. "We're targeting behaviors. What we know more than anything else is that masking really works ... The fact that the mask is coming off is what creates the risk, and that's why we're talking about special considerations. We're asking people if you're going to go to a restaurant, if you're going to take off your mask when you're with other people, please, please be outside."

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