Voluntary Closures at Restaurants Spread In Major Cities Because of COVID Cases Among Staff

Restaurants in Europe and parts of the U.S. are having to close due to COVID-19 cases.
Restaurants in Europe and parts of the U.S. are having to close due to COVID-19 cases. Photo by Anastasiia Chepinska on Unsplash
The last two weeks of the year are usually a boon for restaurants and bars. After a year of staffing shortages and many other challenges across the industry, restaurants would certainly like to end the year with stuffed dining rooms. Alas, voluntary closures caused by COVID-19 infections among restaurant staff are hampering those plans for some.

Franklin Barbecue in Austin had to close after COVID-19 sidelined a third of its staff at the iconic Central Texas barbecue spot. The restaurant posted on Instagram that they didn't have enough employees to run the restaurant. Owner Aaron Frankin told the Austin American-Statesman that everyone on his staff was fully vaccinated and most were boosted adding, "I can believe how fast that spread within the restaurant." They hope to reopen Tuesday, Dec. 28.
In Houston, KHOU reports that seven restaurants have closed temporarily. Dandelion Cafe posted to their website that after several cases among their staff, they are closed until Dec. 28 “provided everyone is testing negative and healthy.”

Underbelly Hospitality in Houston, which manages eight restaurants, closed from Dec. 19 through Dec. 21.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that several restaurants closed temporarily as cases spread around the city, “Philip Korshak of Korshak Bagels, a popular shop in South Philadelphia that closed Friday, is now weighing a return Wednesday, assuming the last tests among his workers comes back negative."

In New York City, at least 12 businesses shut down because of cases according to The New York Times. Temperance Wine Bar shut down for several days after an employee tested positive for COVID, but they have since reopened.

Analyst Peter Saleh provides restaurant insight to global brokerage firms. In an interview with Yahoo Finance Live on Tuesday, he said that omicron isn't as much of a threat as the ongoing labor shortage, “The labor issue is probably more of a disruption right now than the variant.”

In the cases of the restaurants that have closed, it seems like the two factors are working in tandem: lean staffs are harder to replace when workers get sick.

Late on Monday, Dec. 21, the NHL announced it's hitting the pause button on their season after a large number of players have tested positive. They will postpone all games from Dec. 22 through Dec. 25. Meanwhile, weary of positive cases, the NFL announced they will end mandatory COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic vaccinated players.

"Obviously, restaurants won't have a great next 10 days if their staff is sick and has to miss work." - Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins

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Locally, Dallas County Health and Human Services reported one new case of the omicron variant on Dec. 20, and a total of 568 new cases on Monday.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins assures there are no plans to ask restaurants to shut down but encourages patrons to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines over the holidays to help keep restaurant workers safe.

Jenkins points out that those guidelines will be easy to adhere to given our warm weather pattern: use outdoor dining spaces as much as possible and keep windows open in dining rooms so air can move through rooms. Jenkins emphasizes the importance of wearing a clean mask and washing hands to help keep restaurant staff healthy.

"Obviously, restaurants won't have a great next 10 days if their staff is sick and has to miss work," Jenkins adds.
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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.