Will the Bar and Restaurant Scene Return to Normal in 2021? We Asked Dallas Experts


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Seven years ago, Reddit was asked, “What’s your idea of ​​a perfect day?” The best answer from an account that has since been deleted was, “Wake up next to someone you love, spend the day exploring the outdoors, spend the evening drinking with friends, fall asleep next to someone, you love. “

Maybe throw in a plate of nachos, a sporting event, or live music and now we feel a pang of sadness. With the vaccine rollout under way – now in a race for a more contagious load – we know there is light at the end of that tunnel, but we are understandably skeptical at this point. Is it a light Or Carol Anne’s cupboard in Poltergeist?

So we reached out to some local experts, including a social scientist at the University of Texas at Dallas, Judge Clay Jenkins of Dallas County, and a few bar and restaurant owners and operators for insights. Among other things, we had one main question: When can we have a beer with our friends in a bar?

Regarding COVID-19 immunizations, Jenkins says that at least 70% of the population must be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. As a reference, only 3% of the population had received their first shots three weeks after a vaccine was available.

“But don’t extrapolate too much from it,” warns Jenkins, saying there are several more vaccines in the pipeline, in addition to a mega-vaccination center slated to open this week to accommodate a steady surge in supply and a significant surge carry at the pace of vaccinations.

However, Jenkins warns that January and February “will continue to be very tough”. Both hospital stay rates and cases have broken records in the past few days, likely due to vacation travel.

When we push for a schedule of when we can safely have beer with our friends in a bar: “Hopefully by autumn, but very optimistic this summer,” says Jenkins.

Dr. Timothy Bray is director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research at UTD. He is also on the faculty of the Faculty of Economics, Political and Political Science.

“If our adherence to behaviors – like hand washing and social distancing and the absence of large gatherings – continue to improve, we may see a return to normal by the end of summer. The next school year looks a little more normal than this year. In reality, however, there are so many moving parts, ”says Bray, possibly referring to the new, contagious strain, the introduction of vaccines and immunizations for our most vulnerable and exposed populations.

“It all boils down to a political conversation,” says Bray of how his department explores the intersection of people, politics, and place around the pandemic. “This notion of how human behavior intersects with the places we visit and the guidelines that govern those interactions. We look at COVID and the mask mandate. We are investigating whether or not these guidelines isolate us. ”

He says some of the isolation the policy provides is because we don’t always do what is in our best interests: “If we all washed our hands, wore masks, and stayed home when we were were sick, we wouldn’t need half the policies we have right now. But the reality is, when you look at places where you are more vulnerable, including restaurants where you take off your masks, we have to look at how well we will obey the rules. “

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Ten Bell’s dumpster speaks of the truth

Lauren Drewes Daniels

Meri Dahlke, the owner of Ten Bell Taverns, was stranded in England in March last year when the coronavirus first appeared. It wasn’t the worst that could happen to the Anglophile, but at home she tried to keep her restaurant and bar in the Bishop Arts District going.

Takeaway was a huge challenge, but they streamlined operations which helped to get through some of the financial burden caused by the pandemic.

“I’ve learned that we have some extremely loyal and supportive customers,” says Dahlke. “From our fundraiser months ago until now, they switched our lights on. I am forever grateful for that.

“But things are changing so quickly, and without real help from the state, our luck could change and we would have to close. When the time comes to dig a deep hole that we cannot get out of, we will make some tough decisions. “

Dallas Dive Bar Lakewood Landing converted part of its parking lot into a patio and expanded its capacity to accommodate customers safely.

“This additional seating was very popular with our customers,” says Jordan Lowery of Landing. “Anyone know why it works? Our terrace can get pretty narrow in normal times. The seats in the parking lot are far apart and in good weather it can be very cold. ”

Lowery envisions that they will hold that extra outside space in one form or another over the long term.

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Originally installed to clean up after a few pounds of lobster, this hospital-grade hand washing station is now a serious selling point.

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Dallas Hale is the CEO of Shell Shack restaurants, which are more of a dining experience. Cooked crustaceans are served on large platters with all the tools and equipment to crack, chisel and taste tender pieces of meat while drinking huge frozen beverages. Televisions shape the walls. They even have a hospital-grade hand washing station installed during normal times to remove the smell of seafood or bright red Cajun spices from your fingertips.

“We do everything we can in our restaurants, but our to-go is still way above dine-in,” says Hale.

When asked about a return to normal in 2021, Hale assumes that when I see it, I’ll believe it. Operating multiple restaurants in different counties has been a challenge triggered by a number of protocol changes, such as a recent last-minute state override mandate in Travis County that left all restaurants and bars between 10:30 p.m. and 6 a.m. : 00 o’clock were closed from December. January 31 to January 3.

“I have some hope, but unfortunately nothing has materialized,” Hale said recently. “We hope it will get back to normal, but what is the new normal? What is normal? I am very skeptical. ”

While restaurants paddle dogs to keep their chins above the waterline, cautious optimism suggests they’ll be having a beer with our friends at a bar. (While Carol Anne’s cabinet parable points to an unknown abyss.)

“We’re still learning how this virus behaves,” says Bray. “We have the latest mutation that has come up and it’s a little more aggressive in terms of contagion. So we can sit here today and say, “I really think we should see a return to normal by the end of summer,” but we don’t know how a new strain – either the strain that is out now or another one newer will respond to the vaccine. “

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