This was Texas’ first weekend without Covid-19 limits. Here’s how it went for business owners
For about a year, Texas businesses have done whatever they could to stay afloat. As Covid-19 ravaged the state and the country, they pivoted to takeout service, operated their dining rooms at reduced capacities and required masks for their employees and their customers, all according to state rules.
Last week they were finally given the chance to return to normal, after the governor issued an executive order lifting the state’s mask mandate and allowing businesses to reopen at 100% capacity.
But their approaches vary: While some have relaxed their rules a bit, others chose to continue requiring masks and restricted the occupancy of their dining rooms.
Just as varied as the approaches were their experiences this weekend, the first without Covid-19 limits on businesses — some saw business improve, others said things stayed much the same. One was the target of racist vandalism.
Here’s what some Texas businesses told CNN about their first weekend since restrictions were lifted.
Mike Nguyen, San Antonio
Sunday morning, Mike Nguyen discovered his San Antonio restaurant, Noodle Tree, had been vandalized with racist messages after he’d appeared in local news outlets and on CNN to criticize the decision to lift the mask mandate.
“Kung flu,” “go back 2 China” and “hope U die,” were written in red spray paint, according to photos he shared with CNN. (CNN has reached out to the San Antonio Police Department for comment on the incident).
“Honestly, to me it’s a piece of cloth that goes over your face,” he said. “I don’t understand why they took it this far, but I guess they wanted to send a message that masks are ridiculous, or whatever.”
But aside from the vandalism, Nguyen said the weekend went well. He chose to continue requiring masks for customers unless they’re seated at their tables. And he’s capped his dining room at about 60% to 70%, rather than fully reopening.
Before the restaurant was vandalized, Noodle Tree actually doubled its business compared to last weekend, Nguyen said, calling it one of the restaurant’s “busiest weekends.” He couldn’t say whether the increase was due to the lifting of restrictions or support from the community.
Nguyen said whoever vandalized his restaurant doesn’t represent Texans and they don’t represent San Antonians. Sunday, Nguyen told CNN people had been approaching the business throughout the morning to help clean up.
“I’m very humbled,” he said. “But I’m not surprised. This is what we do as Texans, this is what we do as San Antonians — we help each other out.”
He said that was also evident in how many Texans are still wearing masks, despite the relaxed restrictions.