'Either Way We Lose': Bar Owners React to New Mask Mandates

Time to mask up again, Dallas. Maybe ...
Time to mask up again, Dallas. Maybe ... Lauren Drewes Daniels
[CORRECTION, Aug 12: The original version of this story included a comment from Michelle Honea that indicated the governor's executive order GA-38 prohibits restaurants that took taxpayer funding from asking customers to wear masks. The governor's order, in fact, prohibits those restaurants from asking customers for proof of vaccination.]

Wednesday afternoon, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a new mask mandate. As of midnight on Aug. 11, masks will be required in all schools, businesses and county buildings. Jenkins' office confirmed this includes restaurants and bars; all employees and guests should wear masks while not eating or drinking.

This announcement comes one day after the trauma service area that includes Dallas surpassed a previously significant marker: 15% of beds in hospitals are COVID patients. Last year, seven days above that mark triggered reduced capacities mandates for restaurants and bars had to close. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott made those measures illegal with an executive order, GA-38, on July 29.

Mike Snider, owner of AllGood Cafe in Deep Ellum, says dealing with the surge in infections is a challenge and they're already doing as much as they can.

"It’s the right thing to do, and we are trying, but the public is not wearing masks and it’s gonna be hard to make them this second time around," Snider says.

Michelle Honea co-owns The Grapevine Bar. Her popular spot was shuttered from March 15, 2020, until the governor lifted all restrictions on March 2, 2021. She's been diligent with protocols along the way; her father got severely ill from COVID-19, and she lost her stepmother to the disease. 

"Most people don't realize the impact COVID restrictions in Texas had on bars, far greater than any other industry," Honea wrote the Observer after the mandate was announced. "This new mandate puts ALL small businesses in a precarious spot. (...) We're exhausted."

Honea goes on to point out that it is harder than ever to run a business: "We have supply chain issues that make it difficult to keep products in stock, our vendors are short-staffed making everything more challenging, our staff is already being mistreated without adding another mask mandate into the mix."

Add to that an exodus from the service industry, and she says money isn't the primary issue. "With this county mandate, as business owners, we're being pulled in two different directions and either way we lose," she says.

"We need to get everyone to get vaccinated"

UT Southwestern models predict a dramatic rise in cases over the next several months — close to three times the number of hospitalizations by October, should the slow pace of vaccinations continue or social behaviors not change.
click to enlarge The trajectory for the current pace of hospitalizations is bleak. - UT SOUTHWESTERN
The trajectory for the current pace of hospitalizations is bleak.
UT Southwestern
Yesterday Dallas County reported a three-day total of 3,270 new cases of COVID-19. According to data from Dallas County Health and Human Services, the trend of confirmed COVID-19 emergency room visits in the last 24 hours is higher than it was during the winter surge.

"About two months ago, Delta only caused about 12% of cases in Texas," Jenkins said in a statement on Aug. 10, "But now the most recent data from UTSW from North Texas suggests that 97% of our cases here are caused by the Delta variant."

"We need to get everyone to get vaccinated," Snider says. 
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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.