Coronavirus

Many Local Restaurants Had a Banner Weekend. Is That A Light at the End of This Tunnel?

Bishop Arts District was looking good this past Saturday.
Bishop Arts District was looking good this past Saturday. Lauren Drewes Daniels
Nachos and laughter spilled over picnic tables and patios in the Bishop Arts District this weekend. Near-perfect weather, spring break vibes and maybe a few stimulus checks hitting bank accounts had people out not in droves, but in a mild-mannered been-cooped-up-too-long way. Other factors, like low COVID-19 hospitalization rates and more shots in arms may have played a part.

Foot traffic was light early in the afternoon but picked up as the sun went down. Patrons filled tables at restaurants and bars, most of which were socially distanced. Every now and then a classic car slow-rolled down Bishop Ave, taking time to see and be seen. Diners in parklets, which were as packed as they could be, rubbernecked

Restaurateurs around the city had banner weekends, the likes of which they haven't seen since before times.

Celestial Beerworks in the Medical District estimates business was up 40% than before the mid-February ice storm. “People are still mostly wearing masks and the energy is great,” general manager Madeline Rawicki said. “People are so happy to be out again, and a lot of that might have to do with the weather we’ve been having too. Our patio has been full most days.”


Downtown was hopping too. “This weekend we had the best days since we’ve opened,” said Rebecca Velazquez of La Tarte Tropezienne, the French bakery adjacent to The Joule on Main Street, which opened right when the pandemic settled in.

Jill Burgus at Lockhart Smokehouse said they weren’t quite back to normal, “but this weekend was trending towards pre-pandemic levels. These past two weekends have been the best since the pandemic hit.”

click to enlarge Most places are clear they expect patrons to wear masks when walking around or ordering drinks at a bar. - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
Most places are clear they expect patrons to wear masks when walking around or ordering drinks at a bar.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
James Smith, owner of FireHouse Gastro Park, a multipurpose restaurant, coffeehouse and outdoor space in Grand Prairie, said they too had "a record week."

In Deep Ellum, AllGood Cafe was buzzing. “Yeah, it was rocking,” owner Mike Snider said. “But that was to be expected. The first day of spring, great weather, spring break and South by Southwest.”

Snider also attributes the uptick to Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to open bars and eliminate capacity limits.

“It’s like everybody thinks it was all back to normal,” Snider said. “We’ve had a lot of regulars here at night for the music, saying that they were there for the first time in a year. Lots of people feel safer now that they and their friends have been vaccinated.”

Like any restaurant or bar owner, he's grateful to see the crowds, but Snider is still cautious.

“Everybody has cabin fever so they are glad to get out and see their friends and the places they haven’t been in a long time and are trying to feel normal. I agree with that, but we don’t want to let our guard down. I still require staff and customers to wear masks until the CDC says otherwise," he explains.

In the Bishop Arts District, most people donned masks when they moved around, especially going to a bar to place a drink order. All servers, workers and valets had masks on. It's all a far screaming-cry from the spring break chaos that overwhelmed Miami Beach this weekend, resulting in more than 1,000 arrests, an 8 p.m. curfew and even an emergency declaration, according to The Associated Press.

As far as across the state, we'll know in a couple of weeks if the 6 p.m. alcohol curfew enacted in beach towns did anything to stymie the spread. KIII TV reported that in Port Aransas business owners were seeing the most business they've had since the pandemic began a year ago, but it was still a depressed showing. 
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.