As Restaurants Begin To Reopen Friday, Some Have Opted To Wait

Some businesses have decided to delay their reopenings, even though Governor Greg Abbott’s stay-at-home order has expired and restaurants, movie theaters, malls and retail stores are allowed to reopen at 25% capacity on May 1.

Mala Sichuan Bistro in Montrose will remain closed until later this month, despite many restaurants reopening May 1.

While many restaurants have decided to reopen their dine-in services Friday, following the state’s 25% capacity guideline, some businesses have decided to hold off.

Restaurants have had little time to meet new health and safety guidelines, as Gov. Greg Abbott rolled out a plan to reopen the Texas economy in phases Monday.

Cori Xiong, owner of Mala Sichuan Bistro, has decided to wait until later this month to reopen their dine-in businesses.

“We only had a few days to get prepared to open if we wanted to open on Friday,” Xiong said. “I thought if we were to open on Friday it would be a little too rushed.”

She said she’s been reading customer comments and talking to employees to get a sense of how she needs to prepare her restaurant locations in Montrose, Katy and Chinatown before opening.

“After getting to know all that and weighing all the risks and benefits, we decided to take the time and get very well-prepared, and then reopen,” Xiong said.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, her dine-in business will be reservation only. She also said the restaurant will check body temperatures before people enter the restaurant, and will use single condiments and disposable utensils, and provide personal protective equipment for staff.

Xiong said she’s planning to open her restaurants in next week or two. Their locations have continued to operate delivery service during the COVID-19 outbreak.

While the Montrose restaurant hasn’t lost much in sales, the other two locations are doing around 40% of their normal business.

Local officials have urged caution in moving forward, and have continued to recommend safe social distancing and masks.

Mayor Sylvester Turner on Thursday said that, despite restaurants opening Friday, he will not be dining in anywhere.

“I will not be at the mall. I will not be at the restaurant. I’m going to be at my home watching the television,” Turner said in a press conference.

“People will have to exercise their judgement,” he said.

According to the Greater Houston Partnership, half of surveyed small businesses in Houston have applied for federal assistance during the pandemic. Despite that economic hit, other restaurants have also delayed reopening.

The brunch restaurant chain Black Walnut has decided not to reopen its dine-in business, but said they’ll announce a reopening date soon.

While this is an exciting step forward, we’ve made the decision not to open our in-house dining out of an abundance of caution for our partners and guests. We want to fully understand the new requirements and the impact it will have on our partners, guests and operations,” a spokesperson for the restaurant said in a written statement.

Brennan's of Houston has also decided to postpone the restart of dine-in services until May 18.

“The Brennan’s team plans to play it safe and prepares to welcome dine-in guests at start of phase two of reopen, which will allow restaurants to operate at 50% capacity. Phase two is currently expected to launch May 18,” a spokesperson for the restaurant said in a written statement.

And both Nino’s Restaurant and Vincent’s Restaurant have delayed reopening until Monday, May 4.


Elizabeth Trovall

Elizabeth Trovall

Immigration Reporter

Elizabeth Trovall is an immigration reporter for Houston Public Media. She joined the News 88.7 team after several years abroad in Santiago, Chile, where she reported on business, energy, politics and culture. Trovall's work has been featured on NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Marketplace, Here and Now, Latino...

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