WACO, Texas — After nearly six weeks, small businesses in downtown Waco were able to open their doors to customers in a limited capacity Friday.
Restaurants and movie theaters were allowed to house customers up to 25% of their capacity after the City of Waco lifted its shelter-in-place order.
Some restaurants remain closed as they wait for the CDC and other regulatory bodies to give further confirmation that it is safe to open their doors.
Milo All Day on Franklin Ave. opened patio seating to customers today. They spaced tables out more than six feet apart and had customers order online by scanning a QR code at their table. They hope to minimize the contact between customers and staff.
"We feel like we've taken all the precautions we can," said Milo owner Corey McEntyre. "We have gotten a lot of guidance from the Texas Restaraunt Association, a lot of guidance from the CDC, a lot of guidance from the governor's office, and we are trying to do the best we can to keep everyone safe."
Some customers sat and ate for hours to celebrate their first chance to sit down at a restaurant since mid-March.
"I've been literally counting the days," said customer Mark Felton.
For Felton and several Milo customers, their meal was a symbol of normalcy as Waco slowly reopens.
"It doesn't feel like things are 100% back to normal," Felton said. "But just the fact that I can just drive down the street and pull into whatever your favorite place is, it helps a lot."
Milo had been serving orders-to-go for the last few weeks, but McEntyre said he missed having people in his restaurant. While they do need the money, he said more so he missed being able to interact with his customers on a daily basis.
"Putting things in to-go boxes and bags and taking it out to their car.. it's felt off," he said. "So it's good to be able to get back to that, like we're able to serve people again. People are able to hang out in a space."
A few blocks away, the Waco Hippodrome also opened its theaters to movie-goers in a limited capacity. Theaters are still required to maintain social distancing, meaning people must sit six feet away from people not in the group they came with. They are also limited to 25% their official seating capacity.
The theater is currently showing four movies, and according to General Mananger Jonathan Segovia, they saw a steady crowd on their first day back.
"I think it's a big deal," Segovia said. "I mean, it's unprecedented times. To be gone that time, six weeks or longer without having that flow of your customer base, it's a huge deal."
Despite the limitations, Segovia says he, like other small businesses needs the turnout to keep his business afloat and will continue to follow state and city regulations as he slowly reopens his business.