HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way a lot of things are done, from flying in planes, to where we can travel. Now, restaurant owners are seeing a shift in the way people go out and have a drink.
It has now been almost a month since Texas Governor Greg Abbott allowed all businesses in the state to reopen to 100% capacity and the popularity in outdoor dining is seeing an increase.
Already popular before 2020, patio dining is currently experiencing a renaissance thanks in part to CDC guidelines, which emphasize social distancing and gathering in outdoor spaces as opposed to indoor.
“Since the pandemic, the patio has become very, very, very popular,” said Omar Treviño, the general manager for Station 1 bar in Harlingen. “I mean, all the tables are pretty spaced out,” he said, gesturing around him to the tables on the patio he was sitting at.
Patios weren’t a pandemic invention, but they saw heavy utilization during it.
Since Governor Abbott lifted the mask mandate in mid-March, employees of two local bars told KVEO they have noticed a shift in seating trends from their customers.
“This area was a lot more popular,” said Treviño looking around the patio. “I saw myself running more drinks outside than to a table inside.”
“Because of the pandemic, a lot of people are wanting to come outside and still enjoy their time eating and drinking,” said Sierra Rodriguez, a bartender at the Point bar in Harlingen.
A common saying for businesses is ‘the customer is always right’, and if customers want to eat outside, businesses will try and meet that demand of those who want to go out, but still want to try and stay safe.
“Up here, we always have all of our tables spread out,” said Rodriguez. “So if you’re feeling pretty nervous about it, we have all of the accommodations for that.”
It’s not unreasonable that people are feeling a little cooped up after over a year of pandemic-related shutdowns and various levels of quarantine.
With millions of vaccines being given a day, bar employees told KVEO they think outdoor dining is here to stay.
“Not feeling confined between four walls. Having fresh air flowing, it makes people feel a lot more comfortable than being in a crowded bar,” said Treviño.
“People are getting a little stir crazy,” said Rodriguez. “They’re ready to get out of the house, so we should really expect a lot more heads to be coming in, especially during the summer.”