As COVID-19 cases rise and government restrictions tighten, many local businesses are taking their social distancing and sanitation regulations the extra mile.
Or, for one restaurant, the wingspan of a brown pelican.
“When the 6-foot rule was put into place, I just randomly Googled the average wingspan of a brown pelican, and it’s about 6-and-a-half feet, so I was telling people you have to stay one soaring brown pelican away from me,” said Daya Myers-Hurt, owner and executive chef of Galveston restaurant Fish Company Taco.
“It’s a weird world, so you have to think of the most humorous ways to get people to acquiesce to the needs,” she added.
Although the recently spiking coronavirus case number led Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday to scale back restaurants’ maximum dine-in capacity from 75 percent to 50 percent, Fish Company Taco’s dining room remained closed to the public, as it has been since a week before dining rooms were closed entirely at the start of the pandemic.
“This is an inconvenience, but it’s not the end of the world,” Myers-Hurt said.
Myers-Hurt kept her dining room closed to the public even as restaurants were permitted to reopen them because she thought the restrictions were being eased too soon. Now, she believes it’s only a matter of time before all restaurants’ dining rooms will be closed again.
“I can almost promise that by next week, they’ll be back down to 25 percent, and then at the 14-day mark it’s going to be back to where it was,” Myers-Hurt said. “The numbers are out of control.”
When customers order from Fish Company Taco, they must wear masks inside and wait outside to receive their meals. Inside the restaurant are multiple bottles of hand sanitizers, markers to spread customers apart, plastic dividers at the counter and rigorous cleaning of pretty much everything in sight.
Meals are delivered in single-use packaging, and there is a contactless credit card reader, which is cleaned after every use.
As she picked up her order curbside from Fish Company Taco on Friday, Lisa Paganucci Mignerey said the businesses that are being extra cautious, as well as being transparent and communicative about the safety measures that they’re taking, are more likely than others to earn her business.
“I’m a Galvestonian, a BOI, and I want to give the local businesses, especially small businesses, my dollar if I can,” she said.
Customer reaction to the restaurant’s more stringent policies has been mixed but mostly well received, Myers-Hurt said.
“A lot of people are like, ‘When are they going to let you open?’ And I’m like, ‘I’m they,’” Myers-Hurt said. “I had one guy who was really adamant about thinning the herd and was like, ‘Cool, let’s do that. Let’s thin the herd. Do you volunteer to be the first cow? Because I do not.’ And he did not.”
‘THEY FEEL SAFE’
While the city of Galveston recently issued an order mandating businesses to require their customers to wear masks, that’s not the case in League City. But that hasn’t stopped some businesses there from imposing the regulation on their own.
Such is the case at GingerSnaps, which sells women’s clothing, accessories and various items in historic downtown League City.
There’s a sign notifying customers they must wear masks while inside and greeting them at the door is a bottle of hand sanitizer.
In addition to protecting customers, store owner Betty Walker noted her measures are in place to protect her and her four employees, as well.
“We have all different age groups that work here, and we have some with compromised immune systems,” Walker said. “It was imperative for some of our employees that we do that for them to feel safe, and, in turn, if they feel safe, we’re guaranteeing the customers can come in and feel safe.”
Walker said she’s received a mostly positive reaction from her clientele, many of whom are older.
“This is one of the few places they go where they feel safe — we hear that a lot,” Walker said. “There are some that get upset about the masks, and you just have to deal with that.”
Less than 2 miles east is Head Games Salon, where hair stylists are striving to protect themselves and their clients.
The four stylists there wear masks and face shields. They also make disposable masks readily available so customers’ reusable cloth masks don’t get stained by hair products. Waiting room magazines, candy and water are no longer available.
“Some customers say they feel safer coming here versus the grocery store,” salon owner Kathy Basile said. “They say, ‘I know I’m not going to have any problems if I come here. Y’all are doing everything you’re supposed to do.’”
On top of sanitizing hair styling stations, which are spaced 8 feet apart, after every use, Basile hires a professional cleaning service once a week for a deep cleansing of the building. Every two weeks, Head Games Salon also undergoes a sanitizing mist.
“I feel like we can’t do much more than what we’re doing, unless somebody has some suggestions,” Basile said. “That’s pretty much what we’ve been doing since day one, and this is our fifth week back.”