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As closure of all bars and entertainment venues was ordered statewide Thursday afternoon, and restaurants were restricted to curbside pickup or delivery only, uncertainty began facing several food and beverage businesses amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Denton County.
The order is effective through midnight April 3, Gov. Greg Abbott said.
With restaurant operations changing overnight, many Denton restaurants, such as Hannah’s Off the Square, have suffered amid the COVID-19 fallout. Argyle resident Phil Shirley, owner of Hannah’s, a casual fine-dining restaurant, said even with daily changes his business has been damaged.
“[COVID-19] has affected us a lot,” he said. “I’m rewiring computers, moving things around and changing things up, and our whole business is still between 60% and 70% down. We’ve cut hours but haven’t lost anybody yet.”
Hannah’s, located at 111 W. Mulberry St., began offering delivery for customers living within 10 miles of the restaurant; however, Shirley said he averages only a few orders per day. His employees live paycheck to paycheck, he said, and while he does not anticipate shutting down, that decision is ultimately dependent on the situation.
“I think the whole industry — all the way up to vendors — will be impacted,” he said. “We don’t know what tomorrow will bring or if we’re going to be open or not.”
The Texas Restaurant Association is encouraging the use of delivery platforms, such as Favor, to support restaurants.
“COVID-19 has now affected every corner of Texas, and with it has come great economic strife for all businesses, but none more so than restaurants,” TRA said in a statement Saturday afternoon. “This new reality can be jarring. Where before there were dozens of smiling customers, now your dining rooms are empty and silent.”
For Bobby Mullins, owner of Armadillo Ale Works, a craft brewery and taproom, his business remains open for to-go orders only. As sales have plummeted and distribution has been reduced or outright canceled, Mullins said a large majority of his temporary staff have been furloughed.
“It’s sad to see them go, but I’m hoping that this blows over quickly and we can get them back on the payroll as soon as possible,” he said. “I feel like we’re in a weird Twilight Zone movie, or something. It’s very unfortunate.”
The taproom, Mullins said, located at 221 S. Bell Ave., is an interconnected operation that relies on three main parts — the brewery, the taproom and Cryptozoology, the coffee shop. And if one goes down, he said, “they all go down.”
Mullins said local businesses likely will face closures, whether by official mandate or permanently. While he said he has not actively considered closing permanently, that has been a thought in the back of his mind.
For many local eateries, restrictions to employee hours, layoffs and furloughs have been increasingly common amid the economic fallout of COVID-19. West Oak Coffee Bar has seen a cut in hours and layoffs affect a significant number of employees, according to a statement. While laid-off staff will be offered free meals until the end of March, the hope is that employees would be able to apply for unemployment for the foreseeable future.
At the Golden Boy Coffee Co. storefront, located at 1807 N. Elm St., employees have lost a significant amount of income due to restrictions, Golden Boy co-owner Storie Cunningham said.
While she said she has not considered closing permanently, it has been a struggle remaining open.
“We would hate to permanently shut down,” Cunningham said. “But we’re trying to keep our eyes on the big picture, stay focused on the positive and just take one day at a time.”