Last week Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order closing all Texas restaurant dining rooms and bars for dine-in service, within his declaration of a public health disaster in the state, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Texas restaurants will only be able to stay open to serve takeout, pickup and drive-through orders.
Many service industry folks rely on tips for their livelihood and the recent executive order has put an estimated 1 million Texan service industry jobs in danger. While we all understand the threat that COVID-19 presents and that we must undeniably do our part in “flattening the curve”, this has brought to light the lack of resources and help for one of the nation’s biggest industries.
Unfortunately, this has had its repercussions at home as well. Many of our local eateries have shut down and have had to make difficult decisions like letting go of their staff, deciding whether or not to offer pick up and curbside services, or shutting down altogether. Like one chef told us, “If it were up to me, I would close. But I can’t. I have 135 families that rely on me. So we got to keep the fire burning.”
Some of our favorite places like The Gremlin, Bodega, Suerte, Bonhomia, Nuri McAllen, Costa Messa and the Delgado Collective Restaurants (House.Wine.&Bistro, Salt-New American Table, Salome on Main) are offering curb-side and/or delivery services along with their entire menu, as well as Family-Dinner options. Sometimes you even get pleasantly surprised by the actual owner or chef at your door, delivering your meal.
Other local restaurants, like Dirty Al’s in North McAllen, are providing community members the option of buying fresh vegetables, rice, poultry and seafood. We came across Dirty Al’s last Sunday while scrolling through our Facebook feed. We jumped on the opportunity to buy fresh produce plus 2 pounds of rice, 1 pound of chicken tender and 1 pound of jumbo shrimp for only $28!
Additionally, last Wednesday, Governor Abbott also issued a waiver that will allow restaurants to deliver alcoholic beverages with food purchases to patrons, including beer, wine and mixed drinks, in order to help push takeout and delivery initiatives. Local restaurants and bars are now offering 40-50% off bottles of wine, $2/$3 beers, full six-packs to go with your meal. At times, this being a better bargain than grocery stores. Plus, you don’t have to run the risk of becoming infected while searching for eggs. Look up any of your local favorite spots on social media to see their food and beverage specials.
Locally owned breweries like Big River Brewery and 5x5 Brewing Company are doing their best to maintain their doors open. Big River has its taproom open for curbside service, Monday through Saturday from 4:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m., and offer home deliveries within a 10-mile radius for order totaling a minimum of $15. 5x5 Brewing Company is now open 7 days a week from 2:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., offering 16oz. crowlers and 64 oz. growlers to go, on all their beers.
During this whole social distancing, the power of social media is increasing more and more each day. Local restaurants/chefs are teaching 5-minute meals, bar managers are showing us how to whip up classic drinks and local gyms and yoga instructors are offering online classes to provide us with a mental break and get our bodies moving. You can follow hashtags like #carryoutchallenge, #exploremcallen #supportlocal and #togetherathome to find more options to make this quarantine a bit less stressful, while at the same time helping out the community. Facebook pages like “Stand Up to COVID-19: Support Local Valley Business” is another useful tool that uses crowdsourcing to obtain the latest information of which local businesses have everyday essentials, services and meals.
In the meantime, dear readers, we ask you to keep your spirits high, spread an endless amount of love, kindness and compassion to one another. While we may currently be practicing social distancing, this also serves as a time for community unity.
Gaby Jones and Trisha Watts work hand-in-hand with the service industry. Jones is in charge of craft and imported beer for L&F Distributors-South Texas and Watts is a freelance writer specializing in the marketing of the service industry. Each week they will have a new adventure and provide an opinion on multiple locations throughout the Rio Grande Valley. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.