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Taprooms and Restaurants Respond to Removal of Mask and Capacity Mandates

It’s been almost an entire year since someone has cracked open a beer and sat back to watch a soccer game at Peticolas Brewing. Well, except for last week when owner Micheal Peticolas, riding out his frustrations on his skateboard, wound up at his brewery.

“A friend texted me and asked if I was watching the game,” he explained. “And I was halfway to the brewery from my house at that point.” So, he kicked-pushed the rest of the way, a full seven miles.

The taproom empty, he put the game on, poured a beer and sat down, “And I just thought, ‘Man, I miss this.’”

Peticolas’ was one of the few bars or taprooms around Dallas that didn’t apply for a food and beverage permit that would have allowed him to open. They’d played it safe and only allowed online to-go orders and curbside pickup. But, just last week, for the first time he considered applying for that permit, frustrated by the lack of guidance as to when they might be able to open.

Tuesday when he got word that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the mask mandates and will allow all businesses to operate at 100% capacity starting March 10, he was excited.

“Finally! I’m so excited! It’s been a year!” Peticolas said.

When asked what opening back up will look like for his taproom, he doesn’t expect it will be much different than what one sees at many restaurants now. He feels people have likely settled into what is comfortable for them and will stick to that.

“I don’t think people’s behaviors will change much,” he said. “We’ll utilize as much space as we can, and new norms will kick-in.”

The new mandate from the governor allows businesses to make their own decisions regarding masks. Almost immediately the tension was evident on social media platforms; who’s going to require masks and who’s not? The fallout could be a patchwork of protocols, different from door to door along the same sidewalk.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins held a press conference Tuesday afternoon shortly after the governor made his announcement. He said he isn’t sure yet if county mandates can supersede the governor’s executive order, but indicated his staff was looking into it.

As to when he thinks it would be a good time to open the state and remove masks, he did not parse words.

“A good time would be when the people who have trained their entire adult life to combat infectious diseases and pandemics advise that it is,” Jenkins said. “That’s your public health directors your infectious disease chiefs at major hospitals. Doctors will tell you based on what they’re seeing when it is a good time do to do that.”

Jenkins said all efforts should be focused on reaching herd immunity as soon as possible.

“We should focus not on what the governor tells you the law allows, but what our doctors, facts and science that we all know well at this point, tell us is necessary to keep us safe and give us our best chance of reaching herd immunity as quickly as possible,” Jenkins said.

As of March 2, only 7% of Dallas County residents have been fully vaccinated; 13.5% have received one shot. On Monday, the county reported 751 new positive cases and 42 COVID-19-related deaths.

Jenkins said the governor did not consult with him, or any other county judges or mayors, as far as he knows, about rescinding the mask mandate and opening businesses to 100%.

“This governor, unlike the previous governors, does not communicate with county judges or mayors,” Jenkins said during a press conference.

Jenkins said the relaxing these restrictions will extend the timeline of when the county reaches herd immunity, which was recently projected to be mid-June, explaining that the model was based on current social distancing and mask mandates.

AllGood Cafe in Deep Ellum posted on Facebook that they will continue to request customers wear masks and will keep capacity at 75% for the safety of patrons and staff. The post received hundreds of positive responses.

Detour Doughnuts and Coffee in Frisco was clear: “NO SHIRTS, NO SHOES, NO MASK, NO SERVICE. PERIOD.” This message also received hundreds of positive reactions, but also a few comments questioning their right to require masks after the mandate has been lifted, an indication of the confusion over the rights of business owners that will certainly play out over the next few weeks.

Ten Bells Tavern will also hold steady with their mask rules: seated customers can take off their masks but must wear them at the bar or walking around masks are required.

The governor did state that if COVID-19 hospitalizations in any of the 22 hospital regions in Texas rises above 15% of the hospital bed capacity for seven straight days, “a county judge in that region may use COVID-19 mitigation strategies.”

But, even Jenkins feels that is unlikely given the vaccine roll-out and number of recovered cases.

Link to the Dallas Observer article.