As bars open for the first time in over two months and restaurants raise their capacity, Tyler area owners and employees are taking extra sanitation and social distancing precautions for customers’ safety.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that bars could reopen at 25% capacity and restaurants could increase their capacity to 50%.
Josh Collins, co-owner of Sports Zone Bar and Grill in downtown Tyler, said being able to reopen his bar is definitely a relief.
With the loosening of restrictions, workers have to make extra efforts to clean and sanitize areas.
Collins said he’s limited seating at the bar and placed tables six feet apart. Customers will be given one-time use plastic cups and other items to reduce the chance of contamination.
Number of menus, which are wiped down after each use, have also been reduced. Every time someone enters or comes back into the bar, they have to use hand sanitizer, he said.
Employees have been running practices for the extra cleaning methods to make sure everything’s done properly.
“We’ve had to coach, teach and develop ahead of time,” Collins said. “Everybody’s very excited. They’re ready to get back to work.”
Workers wear masks and sanitize their hands constantly. Customers are requested but not required to wear masks.
“If you’re at high-risk, you need to stay home,” Collins said. “If you’re healthy and want to get out, we’re here and we support that.”
He said a lot of people contacted him on Facebook and personally once they heard Abbott’s announcement. Collins said he’s appreciative of the community support during the closure and hopes the re-openings can continue.
As a brew pub, ETX Brewing Co. fell under the category of a restaurant and has been able to stay open at 25% capacity.
Co-owner Annie Gilstrap said ETX Brewing will be upgrading to the 50% capacity by opening its indoor dining.
During the 25% capacity regulation, ETX Brewing utilized drive-thru service and spaced out patio seating, while keeping the indoor dining closed, she said.
Now, the business is moving forward with spaced out seating and consistent cleanliness for customers to sit inside.
“We’re thankful for anything we can get as a small family business,” Gilstrap said.
Gilstrap said they’ve hired extra busers and servers to help with additional safety measures.
Normally, customers get their food and drinks themselves at the front counter, but ETX Brewing is moving toward having waiters bring the items to customers.
“We are evolving with the process,” she said.
Gilstrap explained that paying the bills has been challenging because of the lack of revenue from not being fully open.
ETX Brewing customers Randy Jones and Joe Smith said they’ve enjoyed being able to continue coming to the business.
‘I feel for them, not being able to open 100%,” Smith said. “We just want it to get back to normal.”
Both said they’ve been tipping extra for servers at restaurants to help those going through hard times.
Hand sanitizing stations and signage are mounted throughout the establishment to remind people of the safety precautions.
ETX Brewing is also bringing back live music on Friday and Saturday nights.
Jared Chacon, director of marketing at True Vine Brewing Co., said it felt great to hear Abbott announce that bars could reopen. The brewery will be open for its normal tap hours starting Friday at its Earl Campbell Parkway location.
“We’ve been preparing for it for a few weeks so we’re ready to go,” he said.
Prior to being able to reopen, True Vine offered to-go beer and drive-thru services.
True Vine is moving to using a wait staff rather than having people approach the bar for drinks, Chacon said.
Seating has been limited to outdoors only. The indoor taproom is open to just bathroom use.
Chacon said True Vine has always used food-grade sanitation products, but now they’re using products more frequently. He said employees are excited to get back to work.
“They’ve taken to these new procedures with ease,” Chacon said. “It’s been great. People are excited, and we’re happy to have their support.”
Bartenders will wear masks, but customers are not required to do so, Chacon said.
Guidelines state customers must be seated at an outdoor table to order and receive beer and no more than six people is allowed per table.
The tables are placed seven feet apart and cannot be pushed together. Areas set aside for kids and pets are closed.