Today’s edition of News Bites, again for the seventh week in a row, will cover what’s relevant to Dallas dining right now.
Wow, April, we hardly knew ye. It’s May. Which means, per Gov. Greg Abbott’s Monday announcement, certain businesses—restaurants, movie theaters, malls—can reopen at 25 percent of total occupancy today. While you won’t see me out dining today or in the coming days, I absolutely understand that, for many restaurant owners, it was a hard call: reopen or wait and see. It’s a decision I definitely don’t envy, and wish nothing but good health for all the restaurant owners and staff trying to do their best.
When I spoke with Jar Jerrier earlier this week about how he felt about keeping his Cane Rosso and Zoli’s dining rooms closed (but still open for takeout and delivery), he didn’t hide the fact that he felt pretty awful. “None of us felt good about being ready in a way that would make everybody feel good. And I mean even just if you the temperature of all the ‘Dr. Facebooks’ out there, nobody in Texas seems to be ready to go back to full on dining,” he told me. (Speaking of which, here at D we’d like to know where you stand. Take our FrontBurner poll: Are you comfortable going to a restaurant? Movie Theater? Mall? The results thus far show that many of us aren’t yet ready to go eat out en masse.)
Others in the hospitality are echoing a similar sentiment. Homewood’s Matt McCallister’s likewise planning to “just focus on our takeout and work on the logistics of how we will do both full service and take out in the near future.” Ditto Stephanie Gilewicz of the Design District deli Brown Bag Provisions, saying “We do not plan to open the dining room until we can be assured it’s the right thing to do. No use taking chances.”
Risk is no doubt on everyone’s mind right now. Britt Philyaw of Heard That Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping industry workers, says she thinks “it’s reckless for Abbott to open and not have guidelines for high-risk workers or mandated statewide sick pay.” There’s indeed quite a bit of confusion around Abbott’s Open Texas health protocols that don’t precisely address certain aspects of reopening (questions about enforcement of those protocols, or if workers have to return to work). “There needs to be clarification for employers and employees alike that still feel uncertain about reopening,” says Philyaw.
Meanwhile, amid restaurants reopening, a big-name spot has announced that it’s closing—permanently…
Five Sixty Restaurant Atop Reunion Tower Keeps the Lights Off
Wolfgang Puck’s luxurious, sky-grazing restaurant will not reopen alongside others today. In fact, a PR representative for the restaurant confirmed to SideDish that it will close permanently. A statement from Five Sixty explains, “Given this extended closure, in combination with the unknown timeline due to the Coronavirus, Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck will not reopen.”
It had originally closed for some scheduled improvements earlier this year. Five Sixty opened 11 years ago, when Dallas had not yet seen the likes of celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck bring a certain kind of fine dining to the city. Yet, five hundred and sixty feet up in the air, that’s exactly what Puck did, as diners celebrated engagements and birthdays.
In the statement, Puck says, “I am very proud of the dining experience we created at Five Sixty and the talented team who have worked so hard for us over these past 11 years. We are grateful to our loyal clients and to the Dallas community for their support.” His Dallas presence will remain through his catering operations. As so many restaurants struggle to survive right now, it’s especially striking to see giants of the food world such as Puck struck down, in a business sense, by the coronavirus.
Heard That Foundation Changes Its Restaurant Industry Worker Meal Programs
The Dallas nonprofit has announced that May 1 will be the last day for their Staff Meal program, which has been feeding food-insecure or out-of-work restaurant industry workers five days a week out of the HG Sply Co. kitchen on Lowest Greenville. Those seeking meals will find that the program is continuing at Elias Pope’s restaurant HERO in Victory Park.
Meanwhile, Heard That’s Britt Philyaw says the foundation is focusing on their Double-Impact Initiative, which uses donations to purchase ingredients from local farmers. Starting today, they will hand out farmers bags full of produce rather than meals. The first farmers bag will comprise items from a number of producers who have lost business as a result of restaurant closures. “We wanted to focus on ‘What’s the future of all of the local produce from farmers?’ And just keep people fed with healthy things.” The new system reduces the need for volunteers, who may be returning to jobs. Additionally, they will double down in their grant program, which offers $500 micro-grants to uninsured service industry workers facing out-of-pocket expenses.
Staff Meal, a nonprofit , a collaboration between FestEvents Foundation and local suppliers, which provides family-size servings of free breakfast and dinner pick-ups for industry workers, is also shifting operations, moving this weekend from the event space at 3015 at Trinity Groves to the Irving Convention Center, where they’ve been given access to a state-of-the-art kitchen and workspace.
Don’t Miss This on SideDish
After making a name for himself in top-level restaurants and on TV, chef Kevin Ashade opened his first-ever restaurant in Garland in January. Then the coronavirus happened.
The story of a small block of restaurants on Bryan Street illuminates the myriad obstacles restaurants are facing right now.
Sure, restaurants are allowed to welcome guests again, just at 25 percent capacity. But does that really help the already splinter-thin margins? Many restaurateurs say no.