Downtown restaurant owners detail reopening experience

May 7, 2020 | In Dining

Downtown businesses need community support now more than ever. As restaurants and retailers have been permitted to reopen at a limited capacity, business owners are working hard to enhance their health and safety procedures to keep their staff and customers healthy.

In this recent Austin American-Statesman article, Downtown business owners detail what reopening has looked like for them.

“Most people who decide to grab a breakfast taco at Star Coffee in Round Rock are still taking it to go or eating at a table outside instead of in the dining room, owner Shawn Faulk said.

Like several other restaurant owners in the historic downtown areas of Round Rock and Georgetown, he is still providing mostly to-go orders to loyal patrons even though restaurants are now allowed to have 25% of their customers eat in their establishments.

“People are still scared,” said Faulk. He said his restaurant at 201 E. Main Street is attracting five to 10 diners at a time inside even though it’s allowed to have 24 customers under the 25% occupancy rate.

Louisiana Longhorn Cafe at 200 E. Main St. in Round Rock has hit its 25% occupancy rate just a few times, said Melinda Overstreet, one of the owners.

“We have chairs that are 6 feet apart and furnish hand sanitizer and paper menus,” she said.

Operating at 25% occupancy does not pay the restaurant’s overhead or payroll taxes, she said. “I’m just hoping by June that we will be back to semi-normal and people can get out.”

Customers who pick up curbside food from Louisiana Longhorn have said “they just aren’t ready to come back yet,” Overstreet said.

Another restaurant on Round Rock’s Main Street, Slapbox Pizzicheria, hasn’t opened its dining room, but is still busy taking to-go orders.

Matt Irizarry, a manager at the pizza place, said the owners are going to reevaluate whether to open when restaurants are allowed to have a 50% occupancy rate.

Marisela Peña, one of the owners of Dos Mary’s Tex-Mex Bar and Grill at 118 E. Main St. in Round Rock, said she was happy to reopen, even with the 25% occupancy rate restriction.

More than 100 customers came in to dine on the first day, she said. They had to eat in shifts because the restaurant’s capacity is limited to 15 people. Other days have been slower, she said.

“I feel stronger,” she said. “I feel like if we can make it through this, we can make it through any issue.”