Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to reopen all businesses and restaurants 100% starting Wednesday, March 10 and to end the statewide mask mandate has been a hot topic among Texans, with some celebrating the decision and others mourning it. 

Abbott assured Texans that though the pandemic was ongoing, vaccinations continue, and individuals now know how to protect themselves. “People and businesses don’t need the state telling them how to operate,” he said.

Not only have individuals struggled with what to make of the decision, but businesses have had mixed reactions as to how they will continue their operations. Restaurants and business owners in the DFW metroplex — and in the rest of Texas — will now decide what social distancing and mask regulations to require within their borders.

Abbott’s order noted that businesses are still permitted to create their own safety guidelines, like “requiring employees or customers to follow additional hygiene measures, including the wearing of a face covering.”

Some restaurants, such as Teriyaki & Bowl in McKinney, are vehemently against Abbott’s decision. 

“The simple answer, as a business owner,” Teriyaki & Bowl said to Local Profile in a Facebook message. “We are looking for the next 5 years or 10 years or more. Not just the next 6 months! 100% with no masks on? No! How can we protect my workers and our family?”

Teriyaki & Bowl also wrote in the message that they “might be” reopening 100%, but masks are still required for patrons and employees. 

Craftway Kitchen in Plano said that they did not want to comment on Abbott’s decision, nor on the restaurant’s position on the mask mandate.

“This is such a hot topic and political that I don’t want to comment on at this moment,” Craftway Kitchen wrote in a Facebook message. “We will not be making any changes to our restaurant next week.”

But Stan Penn, owner of The Celt Irish Pub in McKinney, said they are “very happy” with Abbott’s decisions. 

“It means that we can return to some level of normalcy,” Penn said. “And, you know, for small businesses — not just ours — but across the nation, it’s been very challenging. We’ve definitely had some dark days and so much uncertainty.”

Despite the decision, The Celt will not be changing its operations much. Penn said the restaurant has been operating at 50% for the last year, and it will start operating at 60-70% following Abbott’s decision. The increase in capacity means The Celt may add one or two more tables. 

Penn also said that wearing a mask will be up to the individual patrons and employees. He said he thinks most of his staff and customers will continue wearing masks, “and that is perfectly fine,” but “for those that choose not to, they no longer have to.”

“More than anything, [Abbott’s decision] takes the fear away, and it allows us to operate our businesses more freely and, really, so we can just sleep at night better,” Penn said. “It’s a step in the right direction, and we’re pleased. And the future definitely looks brighter than it did even last week.”

Abbott’s decision puts some pressure on restaurants and other businesses who don’t want to be perceived as making a political statement on the basis of their decision — and for good reason. According to The Washington Post, anger over COVID-19 regulations incited some patrons at a couple of Mexican restaurants in Houston to threaten to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement on employees who wore masks.

“People don’t understand unless you’re in our business what it felt like, how hard it was to go through everything we went through during COVID,” the owner of Picos in Houston told The Washington Post. “For people to be negative toward us for trying to remain safe, so that this doesn’t continue to happen, just makes zero sense to us.”

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Bailey Lewis

Bailey Lewis recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma and served as The OU Daily's news editor and enterprise editor. Previously, she was a summer 2020 news intern at the Malheur Enterprise,...