Gov. Abbott updated his COVID-19 policy Monday afternoon to start Phase I in re-opening some businesses in Texas starting this Friday, May 1.


Retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls are permitted to reopen on Friday, but the services must limit their capacity to 25 percent of their listed occupancy.


Public swimming pools, bars, gyms, cosmetology salons, massage establishments, interactive amusement venues, such as bowling alleys and video arcades, and tattoo and piercing studios remain closed through the end of Phase I.


If Phase 1 proves successful in terms of maintaining public safety, Abbott said he would follow up with Phase 2 to allow additional loosening of business restrictions.


The E-T spoke with several local businesses to get their take on Gov. Abbott’s recent announcement.


BANGS & CO. HAIR STUDIO


“The biggest problem I've had from the start is that we don’t even have a choice to open or to work,” said Sarah Elizabeth Cole, the owner of Bangs & Co. Hair Studio. “So many of our rights have been taken away when it should be our choice. They’re allowing all of these other venues that are not essential and are not necessary (to open) and we were the first to shut down. People have the choice to watch a movie, but they don’t get a choice to get their hair cut, whenever we have high sanitation standards regularly.”


Cole said many people don’t realize that learning the proper sanitation protocols is mandatory in getting a Texas Cosmetology License.


“We study sanitation, infectious diseases and how to prevent cross contamination – that’s one of the biggest things that we have to learn to get our license,” she said. “Every tool that we use – combs, brushes, clippers, towels, capes, we only use on one client and then they have to be sanitized before we use them again.”


Shelley Luther, owner of Salon A La Mode in Dallas as of late last week, opened her salon despite state orders, but Cole said it’s not worth losing her license over.


“We have to make a living, but I just hate that I'm threatened of losing my license if I am to open,” Cole said. “A lot of people don’t realize that we’re not just threatened with fines, or jail time or being reprimanded – they can completely take away our license. We’re licensed by the state.”


STUDIO CHROMA


Patty Winters, owner of Studio Chroma in Stephenville, took to Facebook Monday afternoon to voice her concerns about Gov. Abbott’s order — keeping those types of salon businesses shut down until further notice.


"As of now Salons & Gyms are unsafe for the public. We’re not even mentioned in the opening of phase 2 come mid May,” Winters stated in her post. “ ‘It’s just hair.’ It’s not just hair though. It’s 1500 hours & $10k+ for a license in SANITATION. Let’s be real, any cosmetologist who took the state board exam will tell you it is 80% sanitation & very little technique is graded unless you attended a name brand school which will run you $30k+...This industry is fueled on passion. You now have an army of passionate people who have had their creative freedoms & their income taken away over night. (Bear) with us if we’re a little salty lately, we just really miss what we LOVE doing & our Clients.”


JAKE & DOROTHY’S CAFE


The popular Washington Street cafe has been in business since June 1948. Kerry Roach, who took ownership 43 years ago from her parents was not prepared for the current situation.


The cafe has been able to continue doing curbside pickup business, but with a greatly reduced staff. She said she had almost 30 full-time employees before the COVID-19 shutdown.


“My business is about 80 percent off. We’ve kept some people working. I still have 17 or 18,” said Roach, who also adjusted by reducing the cafe’s hours.


Roach said she was able to obtain a small-business loan offered under the federal plan for COVID-19 relief.


“I don’t think I could have made it without that,” Roach said. “And I know so many people that didn’t get it.”


Gov. Abbott’s announcement on Tuesday that restaurants will be allowed to open up for seating of 25 percent of capacity brought even more uncertainty.


The first phase of Abbott’s new business plan states that restaurants can open back up for business, but must limit their seating to 25 percent of their maximum. She said on Monday afternoon she is still undecided whether she will open up the dining room that soon.


Roach said some of her employees expressed fear about coming back to work because of the continued concerns over the virus, and she also noted, “I don’t want somebody to get sick. I can’t do it without my people.”


And, Roach said, there are other concerns brought up by the limited seating under Abbott’s first phase, which begins Friday.


“I can’t operate that building for 25 percent occupancy. I can’t even pay the electric bill,” Roach said.


Even phase 2 of Abbott’s plan may not trigger re-opening her dining room, she said, adding that she is familiar with six individuals — some in other states — who got sick with COVID-19. One of them, who lives in a smaller town northwest of Fort Worth, reported being ill from the virus for 31 days.


“I don’t know because if my people don’t want to work, I can’t make them,” Roach said.


But, she noted, all of them have indicated they will return to work after the virus danger has passed — whenever that may be.


THE PURPLE GOAT


V.W. Stephens, who owns the Purple Goat along with City Limits, City Hall and Agave restaurants on East Washington Street, sounded cautiously optimistic as he contemplated the immediate future.


“I’m happy to do it, if this is what it takes to get us open,” said Stephens, who has been in the restaurant business for 29 years in Stephenville. “We’re excited. Twenty-five percent occupancy will get us the first step up. We miss the people. We miss the employees.”


As for opening restaurants starting May 1, Stephens predicted, “To some restaurants, it’s going to be more negative than positive.”


He has made adjustments to fit the strange new situation, in addition to offering curbside pickup at the Purple Goat.


“We have already pulled our (patio) occupancy down to 30 percent,” Stephens said on Monday, noting that move was done in anticipation of reopening the dining room with reduced occupancy restrictions. “We will hold City Hall (which has a capacity of about 600) to about 100 (customers).”


Stephens said he had to temporarily lay off more than 50 employees, leaving 12 to continue the curbside service.


“A lot of mine will be back,” Stephens said.


For the last three years, Stephens’ restaurants had already been doing food delivery. He said that the delivery and curbside business has increased “probably 80 percent” during the shutdown.


“But our business in general has dropped about 85 percent,” he said.


Of course Purple Goat will also have a reduced occupancy from its usual mark of about 400.


Starting Friday, Purple Goat will return to its usual pattern of being open seven days a week, and will now have a customer capacity of about 125 under Abbott’s new order. Agave will change its hours to 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Thursday through Friday.


Stephens also noted that special care is being given to sterilization in his restaurants. He added that today he will begin special training for his employees in their food handling and serving duties going back to the dining room setting.