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Waco business owners say increased capacity limits will have little effect

US unemployment fell in May in encouraging sign for economy
Posted at 9:34 PM, Sep 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-17 22:34:57-04

WACO, Texas — Several Waco small business say Governor Greg Abbott's decision to increase capacity in gyms, retail stores and restaurants will have little to no impact on day-to-day operations.

Thursday afternoon, Abbott announced Texas would allow several business sectors to increase capacity limits from 50% to 75% starting Sept. 21. The governor said the decision to reopen is closely tied to a county's hospitalization rate.

Retail workers across Waco say since opening at 50% capacity months ago, they have not come close to reaching those limits.

"We're pretty steady," Sara Birdsall, a Barefoot Campus Outfitter employee said. "It's just a couple people every hour, not too busy. So we've never had a problem with being over capacity."

Several other local retail stores told 25 News they have seen a similar flow of customers. As a result, expanding to 75% capacity will have little effect.

"I don't think it'll make that much of a difference," Birdsall said. "I think it'll help once football season starts and we're able to have more people in the store."

The same sentiment is felt by restaurant owners across Waco as well. At Guess Family Barbecue, expanding capacity will allow owners to open just six new tables across their entire restaurant.

"It was convenient for us to be able to lift the restrictions on the tables so we can fit more people in here," Guess General Manager Scott Piagnarelli said. "Then, during the busy hours, we don't have to manage them."

Other restaurants told 25 News they will not be able to add more seating under the new order. Uncle Dan's BBQ, Ninfa's and Alpha and Omega all said the order would not change much in their day-to-day operations unless the governor changed the state's social distancing requirements.

For several restaurants, there simply is not enough space to add tables while maintaining the required six feet of separation.

"That's been the hardest part, especially when you have a line out the door," Piagnarelli said. "Managing six feet has been really difficult."

As restaurants expand to 75% capacity, bars operating with a 51 percent license will remain closed.

Ryan Webster, owner of The Buckle, a pub near Baylor University, said keeping his bar closed has cost him thousands of dollars this year.

"You know the swing is substantial," he said. "You're talking a quarter-million dollars is what this has cost us, and it's not over."

Still, he says he has been given little explanation as to why they are forced to shut their doors as restaurants open up.

Abbott said Thursday bars will remain closed because they are still "nationally recognized as COVID-spreading locations."

"At this point we're just shut down," Webster said. "All our employees are out of work. Some of them have gotten jobs elsewhere, but unfortunately we're paying the price."

Webster said he plans to keep fighting for his bar, even threatening to sue the state government on constitutional grounds. So far, Abbott has not given any potential timeline for reopening.