Starting Wednesday, Texas businesses are able to operate at full capacity. They can require customers wear a mask or not. It’s now up to them; the governor is allowing the state’s mitigation efforts to expire, shifting much of the onus onto businesses.
For small business owners who are barely staying afloat, an influx of customers might be an exciting prospect. For others, the possible repercussions of welcoming dozens of patrons at once–especially those without masks–are terrifying. They worry about being caught in the middle: there is almost no way to please everyone, especially if businesses choose caution and follow science.
We asked owners of Dallas-based retail shops and fitness studios to share their updated safety protocols, their concerns for the health and safety of their staff, and their predictions for the small business community’s ability to face yet another COVID-related challenge.
Molly Mathias, Owner of Go Easy and Magic Hour
“Wearing a mask is such a small thing to do to help others around you. We are listening to our doctors, scientists, and local health officials, and until this thing is over and we have reached herd immunity, both of my stores will require them.
I personally am glad that all businesses are now allowed to open. The government has made it clear they will not be helping small business owners, and we are fighting for our survival daily. If the government got their act together and were actually able to offer relief I would change my mind but I’ve become very disillusioned by the current efforts of our government to offer any sort of help.
I’m very disappointed that the government got rid of the mask order. The scariest part for me is hearing stories of people getting into physical fights, violence, and even death over masks. We’ve had customers in the past make a fuss or try to come in without them, and it was much easier for us to say, sorry, masks are required by the state. Now we ourselves are taking that burden on when we have already been through so much. We will be doing some training for employees on how to handle this. We really just want to make a safe and happy shopping experience for our customers and staff. I’m trying to remain hopeful, but I’m scared.”
Coryanne Ettiene, Owner of Ettiene Market
“Ettiene Market will continue to enforce capacity restrictions and require masks at both locations. Offering a safe place for both customers and staff reflects our core value of ‘people before profits.’
“If my business goes under because I put public health above profits, then I’ll build another one.Coryanne Ettiene
That said, I feel let down and ignored by our government. We’ve demonstrated that masks work and that people can safely shop and gather with other mask-wearing patrons without too much risk. I’ve started to see foot traffic increase with customers slowly making their way back, but with one irresponsible switch, the government ensured that our foot traffic will stop until those concerned about the pandemic can re-learn where to shop and gather safely.
Our Bishop Arts location has not once experienced the wrath of a maskless antagonizer and all of our Bishop Arts neighbors are joining us in continuing to enforce mask requirements. We feel the strength of a communal cause and celebrate it. However, at our Downtown McKinney location, fighting the maskless this past year has been a daily battle that we experienced alongside a few other shopkeepers. Now, my staff will be fighting an even harder fight and it’s heartbreaking to accept.
Enforcing masks and capacity restrictions is the right and smart thing to do. For me, there is no alternative. If my business goes under because I put public health above profits, then I’ll build another one. My biggest hope is that businesses following CDC guidelines won’t be harassed by those who choose not to wear a mask.”
Victoria Thomas, Owner of JOURNEYFIT
“No one wants to remove their mask more than I do, but when you weigh the benefit against the inconvenience, it’s a no-brainer. Whatever I can do to protect myself and others is exactly what I will do. So, despite Governor Abbott’s executive order, JOURNEYFIT clients and staff will remain masked up. Masks will continue to be required upon entering the facility and within common areas of the gym. Members can remove their masks once they are in their personal workout area and six feet away from others. As of now, we do not have plans to increase capacities above 75 percent. The decision to remove these practices will be made once the country is in a better place when it comes to COVID-19 cases.
Honestly, I don’t foresee any pushback from our community when it comes to keeping everyone safe. Despite the pandemic and the shutdown, 2020 was actually a great year for JOURNEYFIT overall. I believe that COVID-19 proved how important it is to keep your health first. Our members realized that, and they depend on JOURNEYFIT more than ever for health and wellness support.”
Rumer Richardson, Owner of BEYOND Studios Dallas
“Although the governor has lifted restrictions, all public health guidance from the CDC and the WHO, as well as from Governor Abbott’s own COVID-19 advisors, has recommended that masks stay in use. Until enough of our local area is vaccinated, we will do our best to keep all of our BEYOND members safe.
We have largely grown our community since reopening. Because of our safety standards, clients feel comfortable coming to us over other studios. Our instructors will continue to sanitize equipment and stay masked during classes to keep clients safe as we walk the room and correct their forms. Clients have to wear masks in public areas until they are at their stations at each studio. We will also continue to operate well under the 50 percent capacity of our buildings. At BEYOND500, 50 percent of our class capacity is 12 participants, and everyone is spaced six feet apart with their own equipment and treadmills. At BEYONDPilates, we have eight Reformers instead of our normal 12–well below the capacity we can fit–to keep Reformers six feet apart.
My biggest qualm is that the responsibility of dealing with those who disagree with masks is now on the small businesses and their employees. In the past, we had the ability to rely on the mandate, but now my instructors and staff are on the front lines dealing with anyone who disagrees.”
Lindsey Munchrath, Owner of Beatnik Fine Goods
“Everyone in our shop must wear a mask at all times, and we’ll continue to monitor the number of customers inside. We have to do what’s best for our family, our staff, and our clients. We have members of [vulnerable groups who] need extra protection.
There are so many opinions on this matter, which makes it difficult for small businesses to satisfy everyone. We have already seen pushback on social media from our announcement of mask enforcement. Unfortunately, I know we will lose clients because of this, but keeping our community and shoppers safe is something I’m not willing to gamble on.
I’m feeling pretty upset at the suddenness of pulling all restrictions at once. I feel like the decision was made without considering all moving parts. It hurts to have people be rude to our staff enforcing this matter, but we have decided to stand strong and kill them with kindness. It’s Beatnik’s tried-and-true approach. I see a lot of businesses in our area approaching the matter the same. I know we will stand together and make it through.”
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