Jake’s Texas Tea House on Austin Avenue has reopened after a two-month hiatus because of COVID-19. Proprietor Jake Black dubbed business “steady” Saturday, hesitating to call it brisk just yet.
Other establishments, including branches of the Waco-McLennan County Library System, are scheduled to open again Monday.
Black’s place, like other dining establishments locally and statewide, now can fill its dining room to 50% occupancy in compliance with virus guidelines.
Black said he has no quarrel with half-a-crowd, at least not now.
“I wish I had that many customers,” he said with a waning chuckle. “It’s going to take a little time. We’ll be OK, but I’m worried about some of the places down here. I’m not sure they’re all going to make it.”
Black said his banker and colleagues inquired about his interest in applying for government-backed grants or loans that might smooth the road ahead and keep Jake’s afloat.
“I declined, told them the government didn’t build my business and would not be telling me how to run it,” Black said. “I just sent everybody packing, told them to get on unemployment. Now we’re back, just sucking eggs and trying to make it. Business is picking up a little bit, and I’m noticing more activity. The Waco (Downtown) Farmers Market was busier than it’s been in some time.”
Traffic was brisk around the market that unfolds on Saturdays in the 500 block of Washington Avenue, across from the McLennan County Courthouse.
Still, Black said business for food vendors and restaurants will not get totally back to normal until downtown office space begins to fill.
“I think a lot of people are still satisfied working from home,” he said.
He has placed more tables on his outside patio in hopes of attracting additional customers while still complying with social distancing regulations.
Jake’s and other shops and vendors will get a boost on Monday, when Magnolia Market at the Silos reopens for operations. It had become Waco’s leading tourist attraction, bringing to town an estimated 25,000 people a week before the COVID-19 crisis forced its shutdown.
The lawn, food trucks and garden center will remain closed off to guests until further notice, and occupancy in the open sections will be limited to half of capacity. Workers will wear masks and gloves, and guests can use no-contact payment at every register. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Sundays, when the attraction will remain closed, as usual.
Magnolia Market shut down March 17 as the city of Waco declared an emergency and began closing all nonessential businesses in the city. Throughout the pause, construction has continued on a $10.4 million expansion to Magnolia Market at the Silos.
Cameron Park Zoo also has reopened, though with limitations. The marine aquarium, freshwater aquarium, herpetarium, Brazos at Night exhibit, Plaza Cafe, Treetops Cafe and Zootique Gift Shop will remain closed for now.
The Waco-McLennan County Library system also is scheduled to open this coming week, after shifting to curbside delivery of books during the closure.
Only a handful of stores remain closed at Richland Mall.
Effective Sunday, the phased reopening statewide will allow for pro sports to be played without in-person fans. Adult recreation leagues can reopen, but games are not allowed until June 15. Youth sports and summer camps may reopen. Food courts and dining areas can reopen “if closely monitored.”
Table capacity must be limited to six people or fewer, and tables must be kept at least 6 feet apart, according to the Texas Governor’s Office.