SAN PATRICIO COUNTY – As restaurants across the state began reopening on May 22, some have shut down once again due to COVID-19 safety concerns. Because of the closures, the Reddit group, r/ViralTexas, was created from eight Subreddits that have come together to compile a list of Texas businesses that reopened, then reported that an employee or customer tested positive for COVID-19 and had to close back down.
The Reddit group states on their page, “The list now has about 140 businesses. Each have been independently verified with the company or news reporting. I am now maintaining the list here.”
The list, titled Texas Bar and Restaurant Outbreak Closure Reports, is compiled in a Google Doc and users don’t need to login to Google to view it. It gets updated daily with the information the group can confirm and is separated by Texas regions and then cities in that area.
The Closures Reports is being shared throughout social media and thanked by users for the information, but it has also created some issues for businesses as well.
It’s in the South Texas section where cities in San Patricio County sits and lists the following cities and closures.
In Mathis, an H-E-B employee tested positive but it didn’t close and at Van’s Burgers, the owners tested positive and closed the restaurant for cleaning. They think a customer passed it on to them.
In Aransas Pass, an H-E-B employee tested positive and at Aransas County Independent School District, one of their employees who was helping with curbside meal services, tested positive for COVID-19 on June 23. While not a restaurant, they were handling food so that appears to have qualified it for the list.
Here is the first instance of the list causing some issues. Hook & Ladder Brewpub in Aransas Pass is listed but had this to say on their social media pages, “We have just been forwarded a document titled Texas Bar and Restaurant Closures that has Hook & Ladder listed as having two employees testing positive for COVID-19. This is false. As of this date, no one has tested positive. I do not know how we protect ourselves from this type of false news. We will always be up front with you regarding the Pub’s status.”
In fact, Hook & Ladder decided to close down on June 18 as a precautionary measure. They said the safety of their guests, family and staff is the most importance to them.
Pep’s Mexican Steak House in Portland essentially did the same thing, closing on June 12 with owner Jose Hernandez saying, “Please understand I am considering the safety of my staff, my family, my business and most importantly, you the guest, during this second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There have been multiple positive cases around the area and I want to make sure everyone stays safe.”
He also said that he will have the entire staff tested and the restaurant cleaned and disinfected per recommended guidelines.
In Sinton at Noble Coffee House, co-owner Pam Vera took to Facebook to dispel some rumors swirling in the area due to the list.
“People can’t share a menu or our lunch special but will be quick to share false information so quickly,” Vera said in a post. “SHAME ON YOU!! You could potentially hurt a business in already hard times even more.”
The coffee house Facebook page added, “The reason Sinton can’t have nice things is because people always have to spread lies and exaggerate the truth.”
And that truth is that Noble’s is closed because on June 21 Vera discovered two customers had tested positive and closed down to clean and disinfect as well as get all the employees tested.
“I would just like people to confirm what they are posting about my family’s business and other businesses on that document,” Vera said. “No one reached out to us prior to adding us to a list.”
That is the one thing the Redditers don’t do, reach out to the businesses. They rely on the public to inform them of a case, then they try and verify, usually through local news sources in print or TV and the information is linked to the business name on the list.
Both Hook & Ladder and Noble Coffee House links are to pages that feature a 404 Error message. To find the document simply Google Texas Bar and Restaurant Outbreak Closure Reports.
On Friday, June 26, Governor Greg Abbott released a statement taking exectuvie action to contain the COVID-19 spread. It read that all bars and similar establishments that receive more than 51 percent of their gross receipts from the sale of alcoholic beverages are required to close at 12 p.m. (June 26).
Those businesses may remain open for delivery and take-out, including for alcoholic beverages, as authorized by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
It also stated that restaurants may remain open for dine-in service, but at a capacity not to exceed 50% of total listed indoor occupancy, beginning Monday, June 29.
Paul Gonzales is a reporter at The News of San Patricio and can be reached at 361-364-1270.