This is how officials in the Houston area apply restaurant and bar capacity guidelines


HOUSTON – The complaint came through a call to 3-1-1, a City of Houston information line. The dining room was too crowded, said a guest at a Waffle House in southeast Houston. The complaint generated a visit from the Fire Marshal’s COVID-19 response team – lead investigator Rodriguez and Inspector Gomez – who entered the restaurant on a fact-finding mission. After a five-minute conversation, the couple left. There was no evidence of a breach of capacity.

“The way she set it up – the manager set it up – that’s the way everyone should have it,” Gomez said.

Gomez and Rodriguez work for the Office of the Fire Marshal of the Houston Fire Department. They are among nine pairs assigned to the office’s COVID-19 response team.

Gomez explained why the restaurant did not violate the state occupancy order, based on his inspection.

“She has tables roped up. Sections where people can sit. No more than four people at the table, ”he said.

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This is the experience of these detective – not all complaints lead to violations. If they do, the task is not to write a quote, KPRC2 has learned.

“We are trying to inform and educate at the same time, so if they don’t know, they can follow the mandated order,” Gomez said.

The current mandated ordinance is that restaurants can fill tables up to 75% of total occupancy.

“We just visualize, look at the restaurant and make sure that… right now they’re supposed to be at 75% capacity or less and they normally are and if they aren’t, they’ve been very willing to get compliant. Said Rodriguez.

How busy are they?

“We are on average around 100 [visits] one day. On a busy day we might have done 180, but averaged around 100, ”Rodriguez said.

Are restaurants and bars compliant?

Gov. Greg Abbott warned on Tuesday that Texans in their twenties have contributed to the daily increase in positive coronavirus cases in the state as they rushed to bars and restaurants after the reopening began. ‘State. While Gomez and Rodriguez said inspectors are busiest on weekends responding to complaints at bars and clubs in the area, for the most part, businesses are in compliance.

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“We didn’t have a lot of issues with managers not wanting to be compliant,” Rodriguez said.

Is enough being done to apply the directives?

Phase 3 of the Texas economic reopening included the option for restaurants to expand dining rooms to 75% of their total occupancy. The expansion came amid an increase in daily positive cases, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo told a press conference last week, prompting some to question whether the state was moving too far. quickly.

Abbott doesn’t think so. At a press conference on Tuesday, the governor said municipalities have tools – in addition to warrants – that will enforce the guidelines, referring to occupation laws.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said on Wednesday the likelihood of city resources going to such an application was low.

“Our local resources have been stretched on so many different things,” Turner said.

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The mayor went on to say that COVID-19 health guidelines for bars and restaurants are set by the state.

“This was the state they reopened at 25% then 60% and on Friday the state opened at 75%,” Turner continued before saying that enforcement should be the responsibility of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, or TABC.

Copyright 2020 by KPRC Click2Houston – All rights reserved.

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